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Last December, police called for a licensing review of famous London nightclub Fabric, on account of eight patrons having collapsed there from ecstasy use and four of them dying during the last three years. Two of those deaths had occurred within the last two months when the review was called for, reported the Islington Gazette.Soon thereafter, Fabric was allowed to stay open, but on the condition that they hire seven drug-sniffing dogs, introduce ID checks on all customers, improve CCTV, and increase drug searches at the door, the Evening Standard reported. These stipulations made Fabric the first London club to have drug dogs regularly on patrol—a service which notably came with the price tag of £300 per four-hour shift. Club co-founder Keith Reilly stated in the Standard's article that "We do everything we can to stop people taking drugs in the club."
Last week, on December 10, Fabric made a successful appeal in court against Islington Council. On their blog, the club shared a statement from their lawyers, Woods Whurr, prefacing it with one of their own: "We feel that this statement reflects the opinions of many businesses operating within the night time industry in regards to these conditions," they wrote. "Everyone at fabric is delighted with the outcome and are very much looking forward to resuming our positive, long standing and solid relationships with both Islington Council's licensing department and the borough's police to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for our club goers and local residents."The lawyers' statement is as follows, where they explain the reasoning behind the judge's decision to reject the imposition of drug detection dogs and ID scan machines:"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."Read the full statement here.Follow Alexander on Twitter.