Keep the cops out of clubs
Proposals to put undercover cops in pubs and clubs has nothing to do with protecting women.
Plainclothes policemen and women could soon be patrolling nightclubs and bars once they reopen, under government plans to make women feel safer. The proposals follow the alleged murder of Sarah Everard and the demonstrations over the weekend. Other proposals include a doubling of the Safer Streets Fund – which provides neighbourhood measures such as better lighting and CCTV – to £45million.
The plans have been widely derided. The Centre for Women’s Justice called the idea ‘frankly bizarre’. Many have pointed out the irony of using undercover cops to protect women, given recent revelations about undercover officers tricking women who they were monitoring into having sex with them.
What’s more, the death of Sarah Everard had nothing whatsoever to do with nightclubs. None of the protests over the weekend was calling for greater monitoring of pubs and clubs. But the hospitality sector has become a whipping boy for the current government. It seems ministers are even willing to exploit a woman’s tragic death to crack down on nightlife.
This is mirrored in the government’s approach to the pandemic. Back in February, it mooted plans to allow pubs to open without serving alcohol. The evidence of viral transmission in pubs and bars is contested. But even if they are a major source of transmission, the government’s plan was obviously motivated by a desire to control our behavior. The idea that pubs could open without serving alcohol illustrated the government’s disdain for the sector. The current ‘roadmap’ to lifting lockdown allows venues to open only at a glacial pace, with restrictions on trade remaining even after they are permitted to open indoors on 17 May.
Of course, the police already have a huge presence in bars and clubs. The 2003 Licensing Act can place draconian requirements on venues to supply security measures to prevent all manner of possible harm to their patrons. The police already have the power to revoke alcohol licenses at short notice, forcing venues to close. The sector is already highly policed. The new undercover-cop proposal is just an extension of the draconian approach that successive governments have taken to policing nightlife.
Yet this proposal also sets a new low. It was never about protecting women. It was about advancing the government’s disdain of the nighttime economy. It appears the government will do anything to prolong its authoritarian approach to social problems after the conclusion of the pandemic. In the coming months, we need to defend our right to socialise outside the gaze of the state. We must keep police out of our nightclubs.
Luke Gittos is a spiked columnist and author. His latest book, Human Rights – Illusory Freedom: Why We Should Repeal the Human Rights Act, is published by Zero Books. Order it here.
Picture by: Getty.
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