Thursday, January 26, 2006

Your safe night out

Bouncers are likely to provoke violence or cause unnecessary injury in more than 30 per cent of incidents in which they are involved, according to Professor Tim Stockwell, director of the Perth-based National Drug Research Institute. If that’s surprising news to you and you’re vaguely familiar with clubland then no doubt you’re telling a porky. One of the subjects that has always left me in bewilderment is the legal zona franca that club doormen enjoy. And that’s without dwelling on the many occasions when I witnessed well behaved puny little things being manhandled (yes, women too) or beaten the crap out of by power-crazed bouncers (my friends and I used to refer to the bouncers at the Birmingham Academy as “the Gestapo”). They may have been pissed-up punters, but does that justify a full-on beating? Security firms can blabber that “if you show us respect you’ll receive respect”, but apply the same principle in any area of customer service and you’d be guaranteed to collect your P45 before lunch break begins.

The fact is, too many bouncers have made machismo an integral part of their self-image and seen the job as a power trip that can boost their ego and usually low self-esteem. Although many security firms check the background of potential employees, Home Office research has found cases where firms took on people with extensive criminal records, or former convicts who set up their own company. No doubt doormen have to put up with hordes of drunken idiots every nights, and no doubt I have also met some really decent ones (well, not many, but I can think of one perfect gentleman, many years ago in that studenty pit that is Snobs) but that isn’t the point. Ugly and overly tough behaviour on the doormen’s part can only increase provocation and the likeliness of injuries with the risk that, in some cases, it is actually the bouncer who can violently put a damper on a night out.

Only a series of recent episodes urged the law-makers in this country to come up with a new regulatory system based on vetting and licensing. How enforceable that is, and what a difference a badge may do, we’ll have to see. At least they should register that if they let their beastly instinct prevail by decking someone’s brains at the slightest hint of misbehaviour there may be legal repercussions. And more good news come from the setting up of a helpline, “Release”, that provides legal advice to people who have been victims of violent behaviour from security staff in clubs. There’s even a phone number, 02077299904. A year of clubbing I miss and see the surprises. Who would have thought.

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