Yesterday, The Croydon Advertiser reported that Croydon Police are seeking to prevent clubs playing certain genres of music, particularly bashment. As well as accounts from the owner of Dice Bar, Mr Roy Seda, of conversations he has had with police officers, The Advertiser has also seen a letter from a police officer to Mr Seda saying that he was playing "what this borough finds unacceptable forms of music".
This is clearly a very concerning story. The police have a difficult and very important job to do ensuring that our night-time economy is safe. I am sure everyone would support them both in trying to prevent people connected with violent crime from coming into Croydon town centre and in taking action against owners who run their premises irresponsibly. However, no policy banning a particularly genre of music has ever been publicly agreed and in my opinion such a policy would be disproportionate. Many law-abiding people enjoy bashment music and they shouldn’t have their freedom to do so curtailed because it also allegedly attracts people who are likely to commit crime or behave anti-socially (in the same way that it would have been disproportionate to prevent anyone from attending football matches in order to stamp out football hooliganism back in the 1980s). And given that bashment is a Jamaican musical genre, such a policy would also be tantamount to racial profiling.
Mr Seda is a constituent of mine and I will be meeting him in a few days’ time and then seeking a meeting with the Borough Commander to try to get to the bottom of what’s been going on.
I met with our Borough Commander, Chief Superintendant Andy Tarrant, on Friday to discuss The Advertiser story and the concerns raised with me by Mr Seda.
Chief Superintendant Tarrant denied that the police are seeking to impose a ban on whole genres of music. I was reassured to hear this and I am sure many others, including those who run venues in Croydon town centre, will be too.
He did say that the police would advise all venues not to play songs that incite violence. I am sure we would all support them in that.
He also said that they advised some venues which had problems with crime and anti-social behaviour not to play certain genres of music, but that advice is not the same as a ban. Given that the police have a key role in determining whether venues’ licences are renewed, I am not sure if venue operators would see that distinction.
In relation to Dice Bar specifically, he showed me a letter from Dice Bar’s security consultants advising them not to play bashment and argued that the change in the venue’s music policy was as a result of this letter, that the policy had subsequently only pressed Mr Seda to comply with the policy he had voluntarily changed.
Finally, Chief Superintendant Tarrant’s reassurance doesn’t sit well with the language that some of officers have been using in their dealings with Mr Seda.
UPDATE 2 3/5
My apologies for not keep this post updated. The Council’s Licensing Committee considered a request by the police to restrict Dice Bar’s opening hours and decided to reject it.
The Council’s Scrutiny Committee is going to look into this whole issue and given both the significant public interest in the story and the unanswered questions, I hope the police will take part in that process so we can get to the bottom of what happened.