Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 17:25 UK

Police defend concert crackdown

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Tinchy Stryder
A concert featuring UK urban star Tinchy Stryder was recently called off

Police have defended their use of a controversial form that requires live music venues to hand over details of performers, promoters and fans.

Form 696 has helped cut shootings and stabbings in and around London gig venues, the Metropolitan Police said.

The Met introduced the risk assessment form to identify gigs where trouble might flare up, partly in response to black-on-black violence.

But it has been criticised for being heavy-handed and racially motivated.

The Met said the form had "played its part" in an 11% drop in serious violence in licensed premises in 2008.

Thomas Bowen, head of the Met team that deals with Form 696, said: "A co-ordinated effort, and 696 assisting the process of identifying potential gang conflict, is undoubtedly contributing towards that reduction of shooting incidents in licensed premises."

Target audience

One in 20 shootings now happened in or around licensed premises, he said - down from one in six at the start of 2007.

Around 70 London pubs and clubs are currently required to complete the form.

It needs to be abolished - it is now quite clearly beginning to have an impact in certain musical types and genres within the London area
Feargal Sharkey
UK Music

It asks for the names, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers of promoters and artists, for details of the target audience and for the style of music, "eg bashment, R'n'B, garage".

It recently came in for criticism from the House of Commons Culture select committee, which recommended that the form be scrapped, saying it imposed "unreasonable conditions on events" and "goes beyond" the Licensing Act.

It has also come under fire from Feargal Sharkey, former Undertones singer and now head of UK Music, an umbrella body that represents the British music industry.

"It needs to be abolished," he said. "It is now quite clearly beginning to have an impact in certain musical types and genres within the London area."

Last autumn, a concert to raise money for a teenage cancer charity was cancelled on police advice because the performers refused to give their personal details on the form, Mr Sharkey said.

Earlier this month, a gig called Project Urban at the O2's Indigo venue was to have hosted some of the biggest names in UK hip-hop, including Tinchy Stryder, Wiley and DJ Ironik, but was called off.

Reverend And The Makers' Jon McClure
Indie singer Jon McClure has started a petition against the form

There is no suggestion that those acts had been associated with any trouble. The promoters said police deemed it higher risk because they had not included the dates of birth of a couple of artists.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said that the show was cancelled by the event manager at the venue after consultation with the police, but could not disclose what advice had been given.

Ch Insp Adrian Studd, head of the Met's clubs and vice unit, said the police had not forced the closure of any concerts in 2008 as a result of the Form 696 process, but that eight shows had been voluntarily pulled by promoters or venues after discussions with officers.

Form 696, which has been used for four years, allows police to check whether artists or promoters have been associated with trouble in the past, he said.

"We started to identify that some of the crime and disorder associated with licensed premises was attracted by certain events or promotions," he told BBC News.

"A premises that was generally very well run, out of the blue could have some serious disorder. It could be because of the particular artist that they had."

You could say that statistically certain genres of music there's more likely to be trouble - but what we want to do is capture all events where there may be problems
Ch Insp Adrian Studd

Venue owners and promoters may not always know about problems with certain acts and their fans, he said. Having the artists' real names and dates of birth allows them to collate accurate information, he added.

They are then able to advise the venues whether more security is needed, or whether the event should be called off.

Jon McClure, singer with indie group Reverend and the Makers, has claimed the form is racist because it targets black audiences, and has started a petition against its use.

But speaking at the Great Escape music conference in Brighton, Ch Insp Studd denied that the force was targeting specific musical genres or ethnic groups.

"We want to be absolutely sure that we are being absolutely fair," he said. "Yes you could say that statistically, [with] certain genres of music there's more likely to be trouble.

"But what we want to do is capture all events where there may be problems. Statistics don't always tell the whole story."

Print Sponsor

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