Westfield bar keeps licence despite 'not taking care' of underage girls

Police have charged a man with murder following a fatal assault in Goresbrook Road, Dagenham, on Fri

The Met Police had requested the review of Bat and Ball's premises licence but councillors decided not to revoke it - Credit: MPS

A bar in Stratford has kept its premises licence despite "not taking proper care" of underage girls, one of whom was later raped.

Councillors on Newham's licensing sub-committee said they "seriously considered" removing the licence of the Bat & Ball pub in connection with "failings" on September 4.

The Met Police requested the licence review and said in its application a group of four 15 and 16-year-old girls attended the Westfield Stratford City venue on that evening.

PC Gary Watson said one reported a stranger rape after being separated from friends after drinking at the bar. A man has pleaded guilty to rape.

PC Watson wrote that two of the other girls were seen buying drinks with no challenge from bar staff despite looking "considerably less" than 18.

All four were ejected from the venue after becoming "very intoxicated", he added.

One of the girls, not the rape victim, allegedly slapped a female door supervisor, who then was said to slam the girl to the ground.

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The female door supervisor was then seen running after the girl, PC Watson said, hitting her to the head and causing her to fall to the ground.

This represented "an excessive use of force", he added.

A council licensing officer said the supervisor was removed from working at the bar after an internal investigation.

PC Watson said the children's level of drunkenness and the lack of concern shown by door supervisors and the manager was concerning.

No after care was given to the girls and no attempt made to help them away safely, he added.

"Staff at the venue had adequate opportunities to care for these vulnerable children and ensure their safety," he said. 

"No evidence of any concern or awareness of these children's vulnerability can be witnessed."

Council teams supported the police's application.

A licensing officer said only one of the girls showed ID on entry, which turned out to be fake.

One of the authority's children's social care team said ejecting the girls rather than leaving them with a responsible adult was a "significant error" and "greatly increased the individuals' vulnerability once ejected onto the street".

The licence review was heard by the committee at a meeting last month.

On behalf of Urban Pubs and Bars, which runs Bat & Ball, Philip Kolvin QC said his client was "sorry" for what happened.

He told the meeting the company "did not take proper care" of the girls.

"Nothing can turn the clock back but if there is any consolation, it is that what happened has not been forgotten.

"It has been the foundation for a rethink and systematic improvement in how young and vulnerable people are protected, not just at the Bat & Ball but across the company as a whole."

He said the company took immediate action after the incident.

Measures include the introduction of ID scans on Friday and Saturday nights, a change in door security company, further staff training and the appointment of a new manager.

Mr Kolvin told councillors the Bat & Ball was not thought of as a "problem bar" and it was the first review for any of Urban Pubs and Bars' premises.

He disputed the point on ID checks, saying three of the girls had their ID examined. 

He also said the four girls did not spend a long time drunk and being ignored by bar staff.

Mr Kolvin argued it was not the case the girls were "abandoned".

He said they were engaged with by the manager and security for half an hour after the ejection happened just before 9.40pm before being left with Westfield security staff.

Mr Kolvin also said the rape victim was rejected entry to the bar at the same time they were ejected and went her own way.

He said the offence against her was not a direct consequence of the bar's actions.

The committee's decision not to revoke has been published on the council's website.

Cllrs Neil Wilson, Winston Vaughan and Sarah Ruiz said there were 20 staff on duty that night and five door supervisors.

"Notwithstanding those staffing levels, the build up to the incidents happened in such a way that well trained staff should have picked up the issues that were developing much more quickly than they did."

As well as the alleged assault on the girl, police said the same female door supervisor allegedly punched one of a group of six males in an apparent "unprovoked assault" on the same night after they were refused entry.

The councillors said they were "very disturbed" that a door supervisor could be seen to be "the aggressor" during two separate incidents within an hour.

"Her behaviour against a female child in the second incident could have been prevented if management had removed her from her position after the first incident.

"When the second incident occurred, and children needed support and welfare after being allowed to drink excessively in the premises, none was given."

The committee members recognised that the Bat & Ball has made changes in staffing, training and in its operating process since the incidents.

They decided not to revoke the licence "due to the remedial action already taken by the premises licence holder, their stance in apologising profusely for the failings on September 4 and their previous track record."

Conditions imposed on the licence include using an ID scan from 8pm on Thursdays to Sundays, all public areas to be covered by CCTV and Challenge 25 to be applied to all alcohol sales at the point of sale.

Urban Pubs and Bars did not respond to a request for comment.