Met has no confidence in O2 Brixton Academy operator but does not want venue to close permanently

13 September 2023 by
Met has no confidence in O2 Brixton Academy operator but does not want venue to close permanently

The Metropolitan Police indicated it has no confidence the company behind the O2 Brixton Academy will ensure the safety of its concert-goers but does not want the venue to shut down permanently.

The London music venue has been closed since 15 December 2022 when concert-goer Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, and security worker Gaby Hutchinson, 23, died after ticketless fans tried to force entry into a concert by Nigerian afro beats artist Asake. Another person remains in hospital after being injured at the event.

The Metropolitan Police asked for the venue's licence to be permanently revoked and Lambeth Council's licensing committee has been hearing evidence this week before making a decision.

Brixton Academy is owned by Academy Music Group (AMG), which runs 18 live music venues across the UK, including three others in London. It had agreed to a three-month suspension of its licence, following the deadly crush.

Speaking at the second day of a hearing, much of which was held in private, Gerald Gouriet KC, representing the Met, said the force was not trying to shut down the venue.

"The police do not wish to close the Academy… they believe AMG Ltd shouldn't be the licensee," he said. "I'm not permitted to go further into the reasons."

About 1,000 people were outside the venue on the evening of 15 December 2022 and police found "large-scale disorder", with crowds eventually pushing the doors open, Gouriet told a previous hearing.

A police investigation was launched and the Security Industry Authority opened an inquiry into corruption allegations made after the crush.

Closing the case for AMG, Philip Kolvin KC said the company has always had a "very close relationship with the police".

Representatives for AMG had previously told the committee the company had developed new safety measures in an effort to have its licence restored, including stronger doors, a better queuing system and more secure ticketing.

Philip Kolvin KC, representing AMG, acknowledged that "things went very wrong" last year, and said the company expressed its "profound sorrow" for the suffering caused to the families of those who died.

AMG, which has operated the venue for 20 years, has done "all in its power to analyse what went wrong," he added.

The venue has spent £1.2 million on maintenance and improvements in 2023, despite being closed.

The venue is proposing to complete a more detailed risk assessment for every show based on the type of music and the demographic of attendees, details of which will be shared with the council and Met police beforehand.

But chairman of the sub-committee, councillor Fred Cowell, raised concerns the new system could become a "proxy for racial discrimination".

Kolvin responded that "black music is the cultural beating heart" of the country, and said AMG wanted event visitors to have a "good time but go home alive".

A total of 165 security staff were used for the Asake show, the highest number the venue had ever used, the committee was told.

Earlier in Tuesday's hearing, representatives of Lambeth Council's licensing authority suggested the venue would be able to reopen subject to conditions.

The licensing committee will begin its formal deliberations on whether to grant a new licence for the venue today (Wednesday 12 September).

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