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Mayor urged to improve safety at London’s night-time venues

The scene outside Brixton O2 Academy following the crowd crush (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
The scene outside Brixton O2 Academy following the crowd crush (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

Sadiq Khan has been urged to take action to keep Londoners safe on nights out, in the wake of the fatal crush at O2 Academy Brixton.

Six recommendations relating to safety at night-time venues have been made by London Assembly Members (AMs), directed at both the Mayor and the city’s borough authorities.

A motion putting the six recommendations forward was proposed by Conservative AM Shaun Bailey at a recent meeting, who said that what happened at O2 Academy Brixton must not be allowed to occur elsewhere in London.

A gig at the venue by the Afrobeats singer Asake on December 15, 2022, was cut short after overcrowding in the foyer caused a surge.

Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, and Gaby Hutchinson, 23, were both fatally injured in the crush.

Mr Bailey told his colleagues: “London is a 24-hour city and wants to remain that way. The protection of our venues, and how they’re administered, is very important.

The motion was put forward by Conservative AM Shaun Bailey (PA Archive)
The motion was put forward by Conservative AM Shaun Bailey (PA Archive)

“Some of you may not know this, but I was a security guard for over 10 years, and worked in the most famous venue in probably the whole country - Wembley Stadium, and the Arena, and the conference centre as well. I’ve been involved personally in crushes. It is a very scary, very horrible thing to happen.”

He added: “As we know, there’s an ongoing police investigation, so we need to be measured in our comments, but the fact that a big part of this investigation is going to look at if security companies, individuals, took bribes or not, is very important, because they’re the first and last defence of the people, young and old, in that venue. If they’re not following the rules, the risk to life is extremely high.”

Mr Bailey’s motion was passed unanimously by the Assembly at their last plenary meeting on Thursday, February 9.

It called on the Mayor to work with councils in keeping an up-to-date register of night-time venues, their capacities and licensing conditions, as well as instructing his Night Czar, Amy Lamé, to invite the police, councils and the biggest security firms to City Hall to discuss bribery allegations and what can be done to combat overcrowding in venues.

It asked Ms Lamé to also meet with senior officers and borough cabinet members in London responsible for licensing to find best practice ways of preventing overcrowding in venues.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, with London's Night Czar Amy Lamé (PA Archive/PA Images)
London mayor Sadiq Khan, with London's Night Czar Amy Lamé (PA Archive/PA Images)

In addition, it called on Mr Khan to release an update to his 2017 report ‘From good night to great night’ with additional sections on venue safety, and for Ms Lamé to outline best practice for night-time venues which is not currently enforced by statute.

The final recommendation asks Mr Khan to write to the government, asking for a review into how licensing and enforcement by councils is ensuring crowd management and public safety.

A spokeswoman for the Mayor said: “The Mayor is deeply saddened by the deaths of Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson and his thoughts remain with all those affected by the tragic incident at the O2 Brixton Academy on December 15. Serious allegations have been made and they must be properly investigated.

“The Mayor and Night Czar support the agreed ongoing suspension of the venue’s licence while the Met Police investigation continues, and are committed to doing all they can to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again. That includes continuing to work closely with local authorities, venues, the Security Industry Authority and the police about event safety across the capital."

Ms Lamé is understood to be planning a workshop in the coming months with key stakeholders from the events and public safety sectors about event safety in the capital.

The Academy remains closed after Lambeth Council suspended its licence for three months up to April 16.

Academy Music Group has previously stated: “O2 Academy Brixton recognises the gravity of the events which occurred on the night of December 15, 2022 and expresses its sincere condolences to the families of those who died during the tragic incident and its genuine concerns for anyone affected by it.”