Clubland bouncers given power to issue on-spot fines

Bouncers in Norwich's notorious nightclub district have been given the power to issue on-the-spot fines without consultation with judges or magistrates.

Bouncers in Norwich's notorious nightclub district have been given the power to issue on-the-spot fines without consultation with judges or magistrates.

Now they fear the move could undermine attempts to deter persistent trouble-makers in the city's Prince of Wales Road area where two men have died this year.

The Norfolk police initiative, aimed at training and accrediting members of the community to bolster their work, has seen selected door-staff given powers more commonly associated with police officers.

Though the force insists the scheme will only add to law enforcement on the streets - already enhanced by an increased frontline presence - there are concerns that the powers could be misused and may only gloss over serious offences.

Concerns centre on Prince of Wales Road as it once again becomes infamous for alcohol fuelled violence as thousands of young people from across the region visit to enjoy the area's pubs and clubs on a night.

A 23-year-old man is currently in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with serious injuries after an attack outside the Qube nightclub following the deaths of 46-year-old Phillip Ward from Drayton and 30-year-old Timothy Moore from Norwich.

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Paul Allen, chairman of Norwich magistrates, said the 'bouncer' scheme had been introduced last October but had only now come to the attention of JPs - and police did not consult with either magistrates or judges before introducing the powers.

He said: 'The danger is that a bouncer giving out a fixed penalty notice may have no idea about an individual's past. That person may have a criminal record as long as your arm and needs more than a fine to stop their behaviour.

'It is also difficult to see what checks and balances are in place to ensure fines are being used in the right cases.

'In some cases, such as petty disorder, it is entirely appropriate to deal with it using a fine. But it could also mean that other, more worrying cases never get to court.

'There is also the issue of public perception - the public recognise the authority of the police but may not recognise a doorman's right to issue a fine.'

Mr Allen has already expressed concern about police use of on-the-spot fines, saying there was no way of ensuring they were being used appropriately. But he said this had improved and the police were now supplying magistrates with regular updates.

Norfolk police said the scheme currently only extended to staff supplied by EventGuard - a company which is also used for other policing functions such as guarding crime scenes.

It could be extended to other door-staff but they would be required to undergo a training and accreditation process overseen by the force. Others with the power to issue fines include housing officers and street wardens.

PC Mike Green, community safety accreditation scheme manager, said: 'EventGuard is an accredited local employer which signed up to the scheme last year.

'Enforcement is only used when necessary. It most be noted that to date there have been no fixed penalty notices issued by accredited persons."

All individuals are vetted by the force and a spokesman added: 'The organisation itself will have reached acceptable standards in management, supervision and accountability and employees nominated for accreditation have reached acceptable standards of appearance and suitability for the post.

'Every accredited person will wear an identifiable uniform and will carry an identification card. This card sets out the powers an individual is trained and authorised to use.

'A member of the public commits an offence if they fail to comply with any authorised request or fails to provide their name and address when required.'

Questions have previously been raised over the increasing 'outsourcing' of police functions. An earlier scheme to allow private security guards to be stationed outside crime scenes, including murders, raised concern.

Commenting on that scheme Malcolm Sneesby, chairman of Norfolk police federation which represents the rank and file, said: 'There is a current process where normally police officers, PCSOs or on occasion special constables are used and the main concerns about using accredited members of the public would be around procedure, knowledge and powers.'

Meanwhile police are continuing to appeal for witnesses following the latest assault on Prince of Wales Road. The man from Norwich was taken to hospital following the attack at about 2am on Friday.

Julian Foster, chairman of the Central Norwich Citizens' Forum, said: 'I would say to anybody coming in, just be aware that there have been these incidents and that you've got to learn to be streetwise and know where to go and how to behave and don't get involved in any aggressive activity.'