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Night-time sector calls on next London police chief to address concerns around discriminatory approach to events

By | Published on Wednesday 2 March 2022

Night Time Industries Association

The Night Time Industries Association has raised concerns that police in London are again asking promoters and venues certain questions about shows which possibly imply policies that discriminate against specific genres and scenes.

These questions are seemingly similar to those previously asked on the controversial and abandoned form 696, the old bit of licensing bureaucracy in London which critics claimed discriminated against certain genres of music and certain ethnicities of music fan.

Form 696 asked for the names, stage names, addresses and phone numbers of any promoters and artists involved in any event where pre-recorded backing tracks were used. An earlier version of the document also asked about the specific genre of music being performed and likely ethnic make-up of the audience, though those questions were dropped in 2009 after a number of artists and music industry groups campaigned against what was seen as racial profiling.

Nevertheless, concerns persisted about the form even once the most controversial questions had been removed, not least because the ‘pre-recorded backing track’ stipulation meant it only really applied to specific genres. So much so, in 2017 – following interventions from then UK culture minister Matt Hancock and London mayor Sadiq Khan – London’s Metropolitan Police force confirmed that the form would no longer be used.

However, NTIA says that – based on information from some of its members – there is now a concern that the London police service has been “reimplementing a discriminatory policy by stealth”.

Referencing the long and ultimately successful campaign against form 696, NTIA boss Michael Kill says: “Our sector fought so hard to try to eradicate this unjust practice, and to establish a collaborative approach to licensing that worked with promoters and venues rather than targeting them. It is sad to see that elements of the discriminatory 696 form are beginning to rear their head again”.

The Metropolitan Police is currently recruiting a new Commissioner following the recent resignation of incumbent Cressida Dick, who quit after Kahn made it clear that he no longer had confidence in her leadership, in particular in dealing with issues around racism and misogyny within the police force. Kill wants whoever takes over to address the night-time sector’s concerns about discriminatory practices when it comes to licensing and policing events.

“I know that the Met will say they are only interested in the ‘risk’ that any given event poses”, he adds, “but this is hugely susceptible to racist biases on the part of police officers – conscious or otherwise – seeping into judgments that are being taken about, for example, whether a certain event ought to go ahead”.

“The next Commissioner when they are appointed must conduct a review and root this practice out”, he concludes.

It is not clear exactly when a replacement for Dick will be appointed, with the process likely to take months. In the meantime, Deputy Commissioner Steve House has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to launch a review into how Dick came to be pushed out, claiming that Khan did not follow the necessary procedures.