Inquiry launched into corruption claims after crowd crush at O2 Academy Brixton

The Security Industry Authority has said it will investigate bribery claims made in an episode of BBC File on 4.

Luke O'Reilly
Wednesday 18 January 2023 19:17 GMT
Flowers on the steps outside the O2 Academy in Brixton (PA)
Flowers on the steps outside the O2 Academy in Brixton (PA)

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is launching an inquiry into corruption allegations made following the crowd crush at the O2 Academy Brixton last month when two people died.

Security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, were fatally hurt when fans without tickets tried to enter a show by Nigerian artist Asake at the south London site on December 15.

A police probe into the incident was launched, and on Monday the venue had its licence suspended for three months while the investigation continues.

Paul Fullwood, SIA director of inspections and enforcement, said on Wednesday that the body was assisting the Metropolitan Police with its investigation into the tragedy.

He said they had seen media reports following the broadcast of an episode of BBC File On 4: Catastrophe At The Academy, which alleged that security staff at the venue took bribes.

Mr Fullwood said: “As the regulator of the private security industry in the UK, we take allegations of corruption by security operatives extremely seriously.

“We have today launched an inquiry into these allegations which appear to extend beyond the Brixton O2 Academy.

“We will also review licensing arrangements and take appropriate action against any individual or company carrying out such practices as part of our regulatory licensing responsibility across the private security industry.”

File On 4 reported a security guard at the venue told the programme that some members of the security staff would each allow “a couple of hundred” people into the venue in exchange for money.

“There were people taking money… Some staff made £1,000 cash,” he told the programme.

“Our company knew what was going on and they knew the people who were doing it,” he added, “and they did nothing about it.”

The decision to suspend the venue’s licence for three months was made by Lambeth Council’s licensing sub-committee. The decision was supported by the venue’s owner, Academy Music Group (AMG), which offered its condolences to the families of those who died in the incident.

Gerald Gouriet KC, representing the Met Police, told the sub-committee that the full extent of the injuries caused by the crush is still unknown.

“It started at 8pm, so I understand by 9pm a large crowd of about 1,000 people had formed outside the entrance to the premises, to all intents giving the appearance of entering the building,” he said.

“Staff at the venue closed the entrance doors and called the police for support. And we have a timing for that call, it’s 9.04pm. The police arrived at 9.16pm.

“When they arrived, they found large-scale disorder, the crowd pushing against the doors, trying to force them open, which they eventually did.

“And when the doors were breached, the crowd poured into the lobby towards the auditorium.

“A number of them fell to the floor. Several – we don’t yet know the total number and that will be found out as the inquiry proceeds – were injured as the crowd surged on and over those who had fallen.”

He added that, as well as the two dead, a third person remains in critical condition in hospital following the incident.

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