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Woods Whur win landmark appeal against Islington Council!

After a year of preparation and three days in court we have been successful in our Appeal against Islington Council for Fabric, the iconic London club.

By the time the case came to appeal the only live issues were the imposition of two conditions. The first required Fabric to employ drugs detection dogs at the premises for 50% of the time the club was open. The second required the use of ID Scan machines, and for all customers to be “vetted” by the machine. These conditions had been stayed pending the appeal but we had carried out trials of both.

We instructed Gerald Gouriet QC, the leading Licensing Silk, and called evidence from, amongst others, Professor Fiona Measham (the country’s leading academic on the social impact of drug use) and Robert Humpreys OBE (Chairman of PASS).

District Judge Allison allowed our appeal in full. In relation to the drugs dog she said, on the evidence she had heard, Islington were wrong to impose the condition as it would not promote the licensing objectives. The Judge went further and found that the use of a drugs dog could undermine the licensing objectives in a number of unintended ways, including causing drugs to remain in circulation that would otherwise have been confiscated under Fabric’s thorough search procedures.

With regard to ID Scan, the Judge said that there was no evidence that the premises had issues with underage entry/sales; that to deploy it at Fabric would adversely affect the length of the queue, with possible public order consequences; and that it would create problems for the significant number of non-UK customers who would not necessarily carry photo ID. She said that Fabric had no issues with violent crime and disorder, which made ID Scan a more understandable control measure at other premises. She also noted that the ID Scan system Fabric had trialled for 7 weeks had not been interrogated once by the police, and that in 16 years of operation there had only been one incident at the premises where ID Scan might have been of some use in the prevention of crime – although she added that, on the facts, she doubted it would. Again she found that Islington were wrong to impose this disproportionate condition.

Gerald and I have spent the last year wrestling with the issues surrounding this case, and in particular the fact that young people have lost their lives after taking drugs on the way to, or in the venue. After hearing Gerald’s submissions the Judge found that the operator was a beacon of best practice, and she urged Fabric to continue its diligence in what is a difficult environment for all who work in the Night time Economy – where so many young people seem prepared, regrettably, to put their lives at risk by taking unlawful drugs.

As always, it was fabulous having Gerald to lead the team; and I would like to pass on a huge thank you to all at Woods Whur, as putting a case like this together takes a fully dedicated team to achieve a smooth delivery.

We only received the decision yesterday. Gerald and I will write a more detailed article for a future newsletter.

Paddy Whur.