Bouncers under the spotlight

BOUNCERS with criminal convictions for violence are still working at clubs and pubs in Ipswich – despite claims of a crackdown, the Evening Star can reveal today.

By Paul Geater

BOUNCERS with criminal convictions for violence are still working at clubs and pubs in Ipswich – despite claims of a crackdown, the Evening Star can reveal today.

Ipswich Council has admitted that more than 20 people with convictions for violence are still prowling entrances to the town's popular nightspots.

The news came as one off duty bouncer was ordered to pay a £200 fine and compensation payout by magistrates in the town after he admitted assaulting a clubber.

And a pub manager admitted that good doormen "Are likely to have a bit of history."

Councillors have been told that out of 149 people registered on the town's ClubWatch scheme a total of 22 have convictions for violent offences – 14 of these have been spent.

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ClubWatch was designed to register door staff to help make Ipswich safer at night and to weed out those with a violent criminal past.

But the figures show that eight security staff – who have been vetted by the council – are currently working with unspent convictions for violent offences.

Chris Hall, head of councillor services, said: "There are some working with violent convictions but these are a very small group out of nearly 150 registered.

"What happens is these people are interviewed and the circumstances are considered. They are only allowed to carry on working provisionally.

"An officer is appointed to deal with applications and if there is any uncertainty they may refuse.

"This is then subject to appeal when the application can come before the panel.

"They have to undergo a period of provisional licensing and then be seen by a party of councillors and the decision to keep them employed has been unanimous.

"It must be remembered the Ipswich scheme is part of the county scheme and we abide by the general guidelines for the whole of Suffolk.

"We do not want to worry anyone in Ipswich as safety is of the utmost importance to us.

"The training in Ipswich is very rigorous and our aim is to ensure every person working as doorstaff are registered."

I the Babergh region doorstaff have to gain a licence and carry out a training programme.

The council's environmental health manger Mike Crisp said: "All district councils in Suffolk run the same scheme, the door stewards licensing scheme. This scheme is operated by the district council in conjunction with the police.

"Each steward must hold a personal 'door stewards licence' before they are allowed to work."

Checks are carried out by police to make sure they are fit and proper persons to hold a licence.

All councils should follow Home Office guidelines but nobody should be able to operate as a bouncer if they have had a serious criminal conviction for, violence, a sexual offence or drug related offence in the last five years.

Bouncers working at Felixstowe nightspots which run entertainment also have to be trained and registered.

Suffolk Coastal Council – which currently has 37 bouncers on its books allowed to work anywhere in the district – licenses the door supervisors in partnership with the police after complaints about some doormen's heavy-handed tactics.

A council spokesman refused to say how many, if any, of the registered doormen had criminal convictions. Record checks were provided by the police before training was given.

The doormen attend three full day and three half day sessions to teach them to handle customers correctly, firmly but with courtesy.

The sessions cover law and licensing, conflict management, first aid, fire prevention, drug identification, Aids and HIV.

Bryan Haynes, manager of Kartouche nightclub in Ipswich said: "Doormen are vetted by both the council and the police and if they grant somebody a licence then we are happy to go along with their recommendations.

"We wouldn't refuse to employ somebody just because they had a criminal conviction, it would depend on the nature of their conviction and how long ago it happened."

Adrian Coldwell, manager of the Cock and Pye, Ipswich said: "I am not aware that any of our door supervisors have convictions but it wouldn't stop us giving someone a job.

"The good doormen are likely to have a bit of history and therefore we would take into account what the conviction was for and how long ago it happened."

Timely Help Security is an agency supplying door staff to many pubs and clubs in Ipswich.

Tim Brownger, from the agency, said all its staff had licences – and none had convictions for violent offences which were not spent.

"Certainly the image of door staff has improved significantly since the scheme was introduced and now training is available."

The police work closely with the councils on the registration scheme and Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey at Ipswich Police Station, said: "We liase with the council and give them specific information about individuals who are applying to be doorstaff.

"The system is dependent on those people being reliable. We would expect each case to be dealt with on its own merits."

This news comes only a year after the ClubWatch was introduced as a tough new measure to regulate security staff in the town.

It came into force on December 1, 2000, and was an important part of the scheme run by the council that applicants gave the council permission to check their criminal records. Those with convictions for violent offences would be weeded out.

This week Conservative group leader Stephen Barker asked a question at a meeting of the full council this week which prompted the reply that 22 door staff had convictions for violence.

"I am very concerned by this," he said. "It shows that despite all the assurances from the council, people with convictions for violence are still able to get jobs as door staff.

"The licencing was designed to ensure that all staff were able to control themselves in all circumstances. People with convictions for violence have shown they are not able to control themselves."

And he felt that spent convictions should also be considered.

"The police take into account spent convictions when considering job applicants, why shouldn't the same apply to door staff?" he said.