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Venue prosecuted for safety breaches

11 October 2022

THE OWNER and general manager of a Mid Ulster entertainment venue have been fined £20,000 and £5,000 respectively, for breaches of health and safety and entertainment licensing legislation for overcrowding and a crushing incident at the ‘Teen Elk’ children’s disco event on 5 November 2021. Costs of £8,086 were also awarded to the Council.

In a prosecution brought by Mid Ulster District Council, Creagh Concrete Products Ltd, which owns ‘The Elk Bar and Bistro’ and its general manager, Mr Aaron McHenry, both pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety and entertainment licensing legislation following an investigation into complaints about the event.

Underage events were immediately prohibited at the premises and the entertainments licence was suspended by the Council.

Council officers had contacted the organisers in advance of the event and sought copies of the event management plan for the event, and been assured that the necessary measures were in place.

However, the investigation concluded that prior to the event the organisers had knowingly sold tickets in excess of the maximum number permitted by the entertainment licence.

The permitted number of children in the premises on the night was 1,041, whereas some 1,800 children were admitted.

The licence conditions imposed by the Council required a minimum of 51 security staff to supervise the event, whereas only 14 staff and 6 “floating stewards” were on duty at the event.

This significant overcrowding and lack of required supervisory staff created a potentially dangerous situation inside the venue, leading to distress and narrowly avoiding serious injury to both patrons and staff.

The District Judge commented that there was a lack of knowledge regarding the conditions of the Entertainment Licence and that the premises had been “atrociously managed.” The Judge stated that business must ensure the proper people are qualified and should engage consultants to ensure matters are complied with.

A spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council said, "Mid Ulster has a growing night-time economy and this is something which the Council encourages.

"However, where there is the potential for the public's safety to be at risk and where there have been alleged breaches of any licence or health and safety, or existing conditions, the Council will take robust action.

"The suspension of the entertainment licence, the prohibition of underage events at the premises and today's ruling confirms that overcrowding, or any other breach of duties under health and safety or entertainments licence will be acted upon, as public safety is paramount."