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Charlotte Krol
26 April 2023, 12:00

O2 Academy Brixton may face indefinite closure as Met Police call for licence revocation

The Metropolitan Police has “lost confidence” in venue operator AMG

Outside photograph of O2 Academy Brixton
Wikimedia Commons/Dr Neil Clifton

London’s O2 Academy Brixton is at risk of being shut indefinitely after the Metropolitan Police urged the local council to strip the venue’s operator of its licence following a deadly crowd crush in December last year.

The Met is seeking a revocation of the venue's licence after security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and event attendee Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, were killed when a crowd of people forced their way into the premises during a gig by Afrobeats star Asake. A decision by Lambeth Council on whether to follow the police advice or to reopen the venue is expected to be made at a licensing meeting soon.  

The south London venue, which is operated by Academy Music Group (AMG), has been closed since the incident on 15th December to allow for investigations. Its licence was suspended initially by Lambeth Council's licensing sub-committee on 22nd December until 16th January. It was then suspended for a further three months. The Met said at the time that the closure extension would “allow time to work with the venue to facilitate a safe reopening”.

Following that three-month period, on 17th April, the Met submitted an application for a review of the venue’s licence to the council. It said that it would be seeking a revocation of its licence. According to The Evening Standard, a submission dated 17th April said that the police force had “lost confidence” in AMG and called for Lambeth Council to revoke the licence completely.

Among the investigations into the 15th December crowd crush was a police investigation and a Security Industry Authority (SIA) inquiry into allegations of corruption. Earlier this year the BBC’s File On 4 programme reported that a security guard at the O2 Academy Brixton had claimed that a number of security staff would allow “a couple of hundred” people into the venue in exchange for money.

Police found “large-scale disorder” at the O2 Academy in December, with an estimated 1,000 people outside the venue. Gerald Gouriet KC, who represented the Met Police at the licensing meeting, claimed that people later forced doors open to enter. Early reports of ticketless fans being outside the venue have been questioned by witnesses. AMG has not commented on those allegations nor claims of bribery.

A spokesperson for AMG said in a statement: “AMG has cooperated fully with the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council since the tragedy at Brixton occurred.

“We have had regular meetings and discussions with the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council at which we have presented detailed proposals that we believe will enable the venue to reopen safely.

“AMG has been awaiting feedback on those proposals for several weeks and looks forward to hearing from the police as soon as possible in constructive terms.”

A Lambeth Council spokesperson confirmed that at the last meeting held in January AMG was told that it must devise workable changes to its licence in a way that fully addresses the Met’s concerns about the venue’s operations. The key is to ensure no repeat of the tragic events of 15th December. 

The Met’s licence review application follows AMG submitting its own application dated 22nd March for a variation of its licence. If approved, it would allow for the venue to stay open.

The Lambeth Council spokesperson added [via The Guardian]: “The variation application has been made, and will be considered at a licensing sub-committee on a date that will be confirmed shortly. On 14th April, an application to review the O2 Academy Brixton’s licence was submitted by the Met Police. That application is now subject to a statutory consultation period.

“As a result, there are currently two outstanding applications in relation to the venue, the licence variation and the licence review. Lambeth council will consider both in due course.”