For those of you who don’t know what the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign is I would like to explain it a little and go into some detail on how bars and nightclubs should deal with situations under the scheme. As a scheme I think it is a great idea and all venues should support it. However there are also issues for security staff in how they choose to approach the issue and how they respond to requests which are important to consider.
‘Ask for Angela’ was a scheme originally set up in the UK to assist people who feel uncomfortable or intimidated on a night out. The idea is that the person could approach any member of staff and ask “ Is Angela working tonight? ”. The staff member would recognise the coded request and escort the person to safety. In theory this is a great idea and something that all venues could get behind. There are also risks however.
I’ve heard some ridiculous stuff on this from people who should know better. A person who wrote and asked me about this had been told by a trainer in the security industry that by putting up the posters they show they are aware that there is a problem and they become liable for it. Absolute rubbish. By opening your doors to the public you are liable for their safety whether you have a poster or not. You have a duty of care to every single person in your premises and liability exists if you do not fulfil it. Bear in mind though that you have a liability for both the person making the report and the person being reported
Duty of care
I’ve dealt with the subject of duty of care before in a previous article which you can read here . Duty of care in these situations works in a number of ways. Firstly there is a duty of care to the person asking for support. This duty expands to making sure that they are reasonably safe while in the premises and are capable of getting safety away from the premises. The practical act of doing this we can discuss further down.
There is also a duty of care now to the rest of the patrons in the venue. Now that the venue is aware of a potential risk from a person and they have to devise some potential controls for this.
Thirdly there is the often forgotten duty of care to the person who has been accused of the wrongdoing. The venue has to consider the issue of the report being incorrect, misunderstood, misidentified or malicious and the potential for loss, harm or damage to this person accused if this were the case.
Assuring the person
Obviously the first priority here is to ensure the safety of the person who has made the request. If the request is made to somebody other than security or a manager then they should be brought to one of these people as soon as possible. Even better if security or a manager can be called to the location on radio. I would also appoint a member of security to begin monitoring the behaviour of the alleged offender at this point and potentially direct CCTV in their direction.
The person raising the issue should be escorted to a safe place in the venue by security where details of the incident can be discussed. Bear in mind that just because an incident doesn’t sound serious to you doesn’t mean it isn’t serious to them. The brain reacts to perceived risk not real risk so it can be very frightening to the person involved and not too bad to a detached bystander.
Once the person is safe details of the incident should be taken down in writing. The person making the complaint can be offered a number of options:
1. Escorted by security to a taxi, car or to a safe place with friends
2. Remain in the venue with security until the person leaves and then meet with friends
3. Security to speak with the alleged offender about their behavior and both parties return inside with security monitoring their safety for the duration of the evening
4. Contact the Gardaí and report a crime which has allegedly taken place if appropriate.
Of course some of these may not be available depending on the nature of the complaint.
The alleged offender
Once the safety of the complainant is assured the next issue is how to deal with the reported offender. We need to be aware that at this point it is just a complaint. It’s also important to be aware that we owe a duty of care to this person as well. There is huge potential here for loss or damage to this persons reputation or injury to the person in the event of a removal being required. We have to balance the rights of this person against the potential risk to others in the venue taking into account all of the evidence we have available. This might include information from other witnesses, information from security staff and possibly CCTV footage.
There are a number of options available based on this:
1. The person is monitored for the rest of the night from a distance and no further intervention is required.
2. The person is asked to leave the venue due to their behaviour. Again the duty of care and risk of defamation must be taken into account here.
3. In serious incidents the Gardai may be called and the person monitored until their arrival or even detained should an arrestable offence have been witnessed (for example on CCTV)
Bear in mind a few things here:
1. We have no grounds to arrest unless a member of security/management witness what they believe is an arrestable offence.
2. There is no detaining without arrest.
3. If we decide to ask the person to leave it should be done correctly and we need to acknowledge that we could escalate a potentially volatile situation. However as in any situation the venue is entitled to ask any person to leave the premises and/or remove them if they then trespass.
4. Once the report has been made a duty of care is established to those who are in the venue. We have to monitor the person for the duration of the evening if it is decided that they can remain. We can’t stop because he/she doesnt appear to be a risk any more.
5. Regardless of which option is chosen a report is needed.
I really do hope that this intiative becomes a seldom used tool. I hope it is a success where it is required. I also hope that it isn’t misused by a minority’s and results in its credibility and viability becoming tarnished. I believe that the venues themselves can ha e a large part to play in all three outcomes.