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Club bouncers defend role

PUBLISHED: 16:00 12 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:19 03 March 2010

MUSCLES have been flexed across Suffolk as bouncers working in the region's pubs and clubs stood up to be counted in defence of their profession.

They claimed that their lives were being put at risk by office mandarins who imposed regulations on their working practises without fully understanding the night life environment.

MUSCLES have been flexed across Suffolk as bouncers working in the region's pubs and clubs stood up to be counted in defence of their profession.

They claimed that their lives were being put at risk by office mandarins who imposed regulations on their working practises without fully understanding the night life environment.

And they claimed experienced security staff were being pushed out of the profession, leaving Suffolk's night spots less safe as a result.

The comments came after The Evening Star highlighted concerns about people with criminal convictions working as door staff.

We revealed that more than a year after a set of tough new measures to regulate security staff, including checks on criminal records and mandatory training schemes, were introduced under the banner ClubWatch, people with a history of violence were still finding jobs in popular night spots.

But industry representatives have hit back.

They said:

N It was unrealistic to expect experienced door staff to have a record clean of criminal convictions for violence.

N The compulsory training scheme was grossly inadequate and left newcomers poorly equipped to deal with the unpredictable nightclub environment.

N There was a lack of national co-ordination between district councils, which means door steward licences (now a mandatory requirement) were not recognised from county to county. Experienced door stewards can be asked to fork out up to £200 for a new licence if they move to a different area, making it difficult for security companies to attract professional staff.

Former doorman Andrew Hessey, who worked in pubs and clubs in Suffolk for more than ten years, damned the licensing scheme as a farce, arguing that it pushed out some of the best people from job and imposed impracticable training practises on those left.

"We can't always use the 'no-pain hold' (as taught in the official scheme). We have to deal with a situation as it presents itself. The police have CS gas and batons for their protection, doormen have only their bodies to defend themselves against knives, bottles and glasses – and they are subject to prosecution for their actions," he said.

"Very few complaints by door staff are taken any further by the police. It is a thankless job with very little pay for putting your life on the line."

Damian > Whitney, general manager of Tower Security, which supplies the door staff to a large number of pubs and late licence venues in Suffolk and beyond, said that since the new regulations came into force people had started moving through the profession too fast.

Experienced security staff were being "pushed out" by history checks designed to weed out undesirable characters while new recruits were turned out on to the doorsteps with only a short training course behind them, quickly becoming disillusioned or injured and leaving the profession.

"When I started work I was the only new one on a team of five experienced staff. Now the opposite is often the case," he said.

"You get these 18, 19-year-olds, they turn up on this course and they are told they are trained to work in an environment which can be very dangerous and about which they have no understanding.

"The training course is supposed to be a standard but how can it be a standard when you can't fail?"

And rather than refuse someone a job because they had a criminal conviction for violence, it could be seen as a mark of experience, he said.

"A doorman will have a history if you have been doing it for ten or 15 years. You can't put yourself in the frontline of horribly violent situations and not have a history I'm afraid.

"When things go wrong in a night club or pub people look to us for help. We need people in there who are willing to get in and sort the problems out."

Steven Wells, managing director of Tower Security, argued that while he agreed with many of the opinions expressed by his colleagues it was important to emphasise some of the positive things to have come from the scheme.

He suggested that while the risk to individual door staff may have increased as a result of the ClubWatch scheme members of the public were as, if not more, safe.

"We have got rid of a lot of the bad old names and faces but the scheme has also acted as a barrier to entry to people who were already working in the industry or who would have made good door supervisors," he said.

"I agree with what the council have done, but they haven't done it in the right way. I'd say we are about 85 per cent of the way there but there are things that need to be tweaked.

"We have better support from the police and the risk to the public is about the same."

Tower security had stepped up their own support system by introducing an internal radio link, which meant staff from nearby venues could be called to trouble hot spots should the need arise, he added.

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