Licensing officers

Exclusive interview: Police chief on horrific pubs, breathalysers and best practice

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

Chief licensing officer Ian Graham (centre) outside Scotland Yard with licensing office Iain Martin (left) and Jennifer East, chief inspector for drugs and licensing
Chief licensing officer Ian Graham (centre) outside Scotland Yard with licensing office Iain Martin (left) and Jennifer East, chief inspector for drugs and licensing

Related tags Night-time economy Metropolitan police service

In an exclusive interview with the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, the chief licensing officer at the Metropolitan Police described the best and worst practices he’s seen at pubs, and encouraged licensees to work “as a team” with police.

Officer Ian Graham supports boroughs throughout the capital, aiming to improve night-time economy and safety. He told horror stories of premises, and explained the support police offer in attempts to reduce crime.

‘Work together’

The Met is keen for pubs to understand it’s not out to get them.

Graham said: “If the business is safe, successful and good for the night-time economy then it’s good for everyone.

“But the Met is dealing with a £800m budget cut this year. The overall cost of a murder is £1m, not to mention the impact on families. Say someone is shot in a bar - someone has to pay for it. Unless the industry gets its act together we are going to be short.”

Worst premises

Graham explained some of the worst venues he’s encountered: “Some areas are very territorial, and have violence on the streets. Whereas central, like Leicester Square, we see people enter premises with intent to target a vulnerable female.

 “We had one case where a customer complained of sexual assault, and a doorman said ‘what do you expect love, it’s a nightclub?’

“In another venue, a man had in excess of 150 conditions on his licence. He was running an under 18s disco, and there was no control. It was awash with hundreds of drugs. If I can walk in and see it, they could look and see for themselves.

“We also use a toilet test: If you can’t treat customers to clean and safe toilets, how are you going to treat the rest of the business?

“The last thing we want is someone waking up in the morning and thinking ‘I don’t know how I got here’, waking up in a strange bed. Everyone has got a part to play.”

Tell-tale signs have also included drunk managers, licensees not knowing conditions and poor hygiene.

Welfare officers

So how can venues improve? Police are trialling new ways to reduce disorder.

The Met recommended welfare officers for late-night venues.

Welfare officers are reported to have drastically reduced violent behaviour where used. They are a member of staff dedicated to helping customers, separate from bouncers.

Graham talked through their benefits: “They’re the face of the pub, looking after people, picking up mobile phones, identifying people who are vulnerable. Lots of student bars have done this, it isn’t something we say bars have to do, it’s just a suggestion.

“They could go up to someone who’s distressed, or being sick. We aren’t looking to find a silver bullet with the welfare officers, but in one venue introducing a welfare officer has reduced violence overnight, they said it’s the best thing they ever did, it’s good for everybody.

“If a female is leaving with a male, and she’s very drunk, they can take the time to ask ‘are you OK, are you happy with this situation?’”

Graham recalled a reported triple rape, which he claimed could have been stopped at several stages.

He continued: “We have a moral duty to intervene, if your business is selling alcohol you’re responsible to customers.

“See someone and imagine it’s a brother or sister, and think ‘would I be happy with them being in that situation?’ You’d be annoyed with a venue if something happened to a family member, but there’s no use being annoyed if you’re part of the same culture.”


A pilot scheme enabling door staff to use breathalysers on customers has been extended in London​.

It aims to be a tool for door staff to identify and refuse entry to drunk customers.

Graham reflected on the possibility of those turned away from bars being left to wander the streets.

He said: “It remains a risk, but is it any better having them in the premises?

“You have a responsibility to people who turn up vulnerable, drunk or otherwise. Don’t think ‘I have done my job now’ after turning them away. Contact CCTV operators, and tell them if someone has wandered down the road.

“We have a huge problem with pre-loading, and this helps premises to filter those out. Some have said they don’t want to use it, and we don’t want to say at this stage ‘you have to use it’. Whoever is on the door is best placed to decide.”

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