Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 17:05 UK

Lap dancing clubs 'no trouble'

Lap dancing club
Campaigners say the clubs are degrading to women

Police find it difficult to close down lap dancing clubs because their customers are usually well-behaved, a vice squad chief has told MPs.

Chief Inspector Adrian Studd, of the Metropolitan Police, said local residents often wanted officers to take action on "moral" grounds.

But the police were restricted to "crime and disorder" laws.

He told the Commons culture committee such clubs were usually "well-run" and had a "high staff ratio to customers".

Lap dancing clubs have sprung up in High Streets across Britain since the 2003 Licensing Act became law.

They have sparked angry protests from local residents and women's groups, who believe they are degrading.

'Sex encounter'

But because they are covered by the same licensing rules as pubs and cafes they can only be blocked if there is a problem with crime and disorder.

"Often people look for a moral decision, which is sometimes very difficult for police and local authorities to make," said Chief Inspector Studd, of the Met's clubs and vice unit.

He added: "It is true to say there is no evidence they cause any crime and disorder, or very rarely, because they tend to be fairly well-run, they tend to have a fairly high staff ratio to customers, the people who tend to go there tend to be a bit older, so they don't tend to drink so excessively and cause... problems outside."

The government has said it is considering a change in the law so that the clubs are categorised as "sex encounter" establishments - the same as sex shops.

This would mean stricter rules about what is allowed to take place inside but Chief Inspector Studd suggested that even this might not make it any easier for police to take action.

In the few local authority areas where lap dancing clubs were regulated in this way, the rules, on how close customers can come to the dancers, for example, had proved difficult to enforce.

"With the best will in the world, when you get into the fine detail of it, as we have tried to do, on a couple of occasions, it's incredibly difficult to try and do that," added Chief Inspector Studd.

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