Lap dance law

First published in Letters

Sir, – During August 2007, the former Durham City Licensing Committee licensed a lap dancing club in Durham City.

This was a cross-party decision and I chaired the meeting of the committee.

When I announced the decision, I stated that “due to the constraints of the Licensing Act, we are granting the application”.

When granting the licence, Durham City Council’s Licensing Committee acted in a quasi-judicial capacity and stuck to the law of this land, making a proper legal decision having, under the restrictions of the legislation in force at the time, no powers to consider morality or other issues not classed as relevant in law to such applications.

I was then subjected to verbal attack by law-abiding members of the public, fellow councillors and also our MP, who clearly did not understand the constraints placed on me and the committee by legislation. I was constantly having to defend my decision and was accused of being too weak to stand up to the entertainment industry. I commented to one local newspaper at the time that: “Our MP should go back and read up on her own Government’s law.”

Since then, the BBC and various newspapers including The Independent, Northern Echo, Daily Mail and The Telegraph ran articles on the laws associated with lap dancing licensing.

The Mail’s headline was Laid Bare: How we became powerless to stop the huge growth in lap-dancing clubs.

Leading law firms gave their opinions in the media. One article by an eminent lawyer was entitled “Lap-dance protesters need to know the law”.

It is obvious to me that our MP had not taken legal advice in the first instance as, after the furore, she decided to introduce a Bill into Parliament asking for the law to be changed.

She had finally woken up to the fact that the concerns of local residents could not be properly taken into account and the law needed changing.

Readers can follow the Bill’s progress by clicking on to http://services.parliament.uk /bills/2008-09/policingand crime.html.

The transitional arrangements consultation can be seen at www.homeoffice.

gov.uk/documents/cons- 2009-sev.

Perhaps members of the public, specifically those who were vocal in their criticism of the actions of the committee, should realise the constraints of legislation and channel their concerns, influence and energy into changes that only Parliament may make, and needs to make, rather than wasting it on what were personal attacks on committee members.

MAUREEN SMITH Langley Moor

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