Posted: Fri 29th Mar 2024

Councillors Vary Rugby Club’s Licence Despite Claims of “Horrendous Violence”

news.wales / newyddion.cymru

Councillors have decided not to revoke a Merthyr Tydfil rugby club’s premises licence despite claims of “horrendous violence” which allegedly left children “screaming and crying”.
South Wales Police had submitted an application for the review of the premises licence of Treharris RFC and had asked that a full revocation of the club’s premises licence be considered or at the very minimum a three month suspension of the alcohol licence.
The application went before the council’s statutory licensing committee on Wednesday, March 27, and the committee decided to vary the premises licence by adding 35 extra conditions relating to CCTV, an incident log, door staff, signs, preventing under age drinking and minimising noise among others.
The grounds given by the police included an alleged incident on January 18, 2024. The council’s licensing department also received an email from a member of the public describing alleged “horrendous violence” occurring at the premises on Saturday, January 13.
The email claimed that the incident took place between 7.30pm and 8.30pm when it alleged that a “great deal of violence” and “fights” happened.
The email described a female being held by her throat by a young male and that another girl had “clumps of hair pulled being pulled out.”
The email claimed that the incident started inside but then moved outside where others got involved and that there were children present who were “screaming and crying.”
Following a visit by the police and licensing officers, it was confirmed that the club had a new CCTV system operating to replace the previous one due to it repeatedly crashing but there was confusion regarding the reported incident, with the club claiming any possible altercation was minor and dealt with appropriately by staff at the time.
It was then confirmed that there was an incident where a male was escorted out of the premises who was collected by a female and there was a heated argument between them but the club didn’t feel it required police attendance.
The police were told the club had been experiencing faults with its CCTV hard drive system and had to replace it and the new system was installed on January with no playback available on the fault system so no footage of the incident could be viewed.
The police said “there can be no doubt” that a disturbance occurred and that it was concerned a condition relating to CCTV had not been complied with and that the premises was in breach of this.
Police raise concerns about approach to CCTV at the club
The submission from South Wales Police said it had “no confidence” in the management and control at the premises and Steven Moseley, a licensing officer at South Wales Police, said it was his view that it was “clear negligence” by those responsible in ensuring conditions were adhered to and licensing objectives were upheld.
The police said that due to the sheer volume of breaches of the licence, the club was not promoting the licensing objectives, specifically the prevention of crime and disorder.
It said that it was essential that the CCTV condition was adhered to but that it was “clearly evidenced” that that the premises had a “total disregard” for the maintenance of its CCTV system and ensuring that the 31 days recording requirement was present.
The police submission to the licensing committee said that time after time when they or council licensing officers had carried out investigations into reported incidents these had been frustrated by there being vital evidence lost due to the CCTV system being damaged, playback not working or the footage not being provided when requested.
The licensing department’s perspective
The council’s licensing department also provided a list of recent complaint history relating to the club between March, 2023, and January, 2024 which included allegations of under-age drinking, fights, not having enough door staff when the outdoor area was being used and excessive noise.
The licensing department said it supported the review of the premises licence and that although it acknowledged some of the complaints it received might have been malicious or unfounded, it was clear that the club had been breaching conditions on the licence to control the use of the outdoor area and ensuring adequate and timely provision of CCTV footage.
Solicitors respond on behalf of the club
Solicitors instructed to respond on behalf of the club said: “The application for a review is grounded upon a report by an anonymously submitted email which was received five days after the event, which was directed to the local authority and not to the police.”
The solicitors’ letter said the event, which was described and quoted in detail by the licensing officer in his submission, was “hyperbolic” in its nature.
It said: “Whilst the trustees do not deny that an incident took place, the management committee reported the incident as minor and dealt with at the time by the responsible person present.”
They added that the report that the club removed a disruptive person from the clubhouse and escorted them from the premises and off the grounds, was not, in the club’s view, given sufficient weight in the assessment of its compliance with its obligations to the specified licensing objective and the fact that a further incident might have occurred between the instigator and the person driving them home, was an event which was beyond the control of the club and its management committee.
The solicitors said: “As the reporting person did not report the disturbance to the police at the time at which it was either witnessed or reported to them, no investigation of the events at the time were recorded and no clear allegations made which could be substantiated or rebutted.”
It added that whereas the licensing officer might be in no doubt as to the consistency of the reported disturbance with its description of extreme and extended violence, the club did not recognise that such a violent disturbance occurred in the manner described.
The club questioned the relevance of the children being present as the premises licence did not have any restrictions on the presence of children in the clubhouse.
In the solicitors’ submission, they said that the club had been unable to assist in the investigation of reported incidents due to an inability to accurately and consistently record activities taking place on the premises
The club said that other than the reported water damage issue, of which the club had no first -hand knowledge of, the failure of the CCTV system had been as a result of purchasing the most affordable system it could obtain and not always the best system.
The club said it had worked with React Fire and Security to provide an assessment of the existing system and install new equipment where required, where the digital video recorder was found to be faulty a brand new recorder had been installed, the club had instituted bar logs for the recording of activities during shifts and the logging of the functionality of the CCTV system was recorded before and after each shift, with any defect being reported to the club committee and React Fire and Security for remediation.
The submission said that it was the club’s hope that the changes in people carrying out the roles and the technical changes to the operation of the
clubhouse and bar could re-establish the confidence of the licensing officer in the management of the club.
It added that the sanctions proposed by the licensing officer would “have immediate and potentially terminal consequences for the operations at the club.
“A full revocation of the premises licence would be the end of all activities of Treharris Phoenix RFC – including the youth and junior sections.
“As with all such community clubs, Treharris Phoenix RFC stand at the heart of theirs. It is the submission of the club that, with the practical changes set out above, alongside the changes in personnel described below, such a sanction would be both excessive and irrevocable.
“The proposal for a three-month suspension of the premises licence would, at the end of the current season, cause the finances of the club extreme distress immediately before the summer shutdown. A circumstance which the club is by no means certain of recovering from.”
The submission went on to say that the club recognised that the licensing officer had over the past year been required to address too many issues at the club with regard to the conduct of the then DPS, a lack of planning with regard to staffing events and a failure to invest limited funds in a reliable CCTV system.
The submission also said the club wished to make clear that the new responsible persons recognised their duties and obligations inherent in running a licensed premises.
“The failures of the past year have caused the club to look to itself critically and identify and replace persons and systems which have allowed this series of circumstances to bring the name of Treharris Phoenix into disrepute.
“The club does believe that a number of the allegations listed by the licensing officer rely too heavily on anonymous reports which later are proven to be false in support of their overall contention.
“However, the club realises that it is not blameless in this and whilst we ask that the committee view some of the allegations levelled against the club as malicious, we take responsibility for those which the responsibility lies on our shoulders.
“If the committee believes that a sanction is deserved for the above-conduct, the club submits that written or final written warning as to future conduct would allow the club to demonstrate that it is capable of learning from
its mistakes and addressing its failings.”
Local councillors say they’ve not received complaints about the club
Local councillors Gareth Richards, Ernie Galsworthy and Ian Thomas said that since being elected as representatives of the Treharris ward they had not received any complaints in relation to the rugby club since being elected.
The findings of the committee
The committee noted the recent changes in structures at the club but were not convinced that previous problems could be fully attributed to a former committee or a previous DPS (designated premises supervisor).
The sub-committee determined that the concerns of local residents about
disorder, crime, under age drinking and noise linked to the club were in the main genuine and credible and that an effective CCTV system was essential to protect the public, customers, staff, the club committee and licence holders.
The committee took the view that the club had concentrated on the rugby aspect of the club to the detriment of its licensing responsibilities and that in its old and new form the club had deliberately or negligently ignored the licensing requirements placed upon it.
The committee’s view was that the club had failed to promote the licensing principles and that there had been a clear failure to heed previous warnings and effect improvements and as this was a case where crime prevention was being undermined, the committee seriously considered revoking the licence.
The  committee had to determine whether the changes in the club structure and the assurances given at the hearing would be sufficient for it to satisfy itself that going forward the club would be able to run its licensable activities properly, in promotion of all the licensing principles and in this instance the committee felt they could be satisfied of this.
But to ensure that there was no further conflict with the licensing principle and that they are promoted, the committee required extra conditions to be attached to the premises licence. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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