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Search Policies

Top Tips: Having a good search policy can help your pub stay open

If you have a search policy at your premises at certain times or nights then it is important to remember why the policy is in place, whether it is voluntary or imposed by way of a condition on your premises licence.

Most search policies are intended to prevent illegal drugs or weapons from entering the premises. Sadly, we are occasionally contacted by operators of licensed premises who have received an Expedited Review application by the Police (or are threatened with one) because of a slashing or stabbing type incident at their premises where an illegal weapon evaded their search policy. Where the incident is serious – and of course it often is – the risk of the premises being closed for several weeks is real, not least because Licensing Authorities view these matters with the gravest concern and the Police fear the risk of reprisals in these often gang-related incidents.

Your search policy therefore has to do the job. In a world where belt-buckles and even chewing gum packets are apparently being sold with ready-made blades vigilance is the key.

Below are a few key points to consider:

  • Door Supervisors have no legal or statutory powers to search any person. However, you can effectively have a “condition of entry” which simply means that customers may be allowed to enter the premises on the condition that the door staff are permitted to search them. If they refuse consent, then they should be refused entry.
  • Never forcibly search anyone;
  • Display a sign explaining your search policy, which may include the use of metal detector wands or a metal arch;
  • Explain what you will be searching for – illegal drugs, weapons and any other items unsuitable to be brought into the premises;
  • Most customers will appreciate your conducting searches for their own safety;
  • Searches should be carried out courteously and as efficiently as possible
    If you have a random search policy then it should be carried out at a frequency likely to act as a deterrent factor and the selection of customers to be searched must not be made on any grounds that could be seen as discriminatory and therefore unlawful;
  • Male door supervisors may ask female customers to empty the contents of their handbags or pockets onto a table but otherwise should not carry out a “pat-down”.
  • Female door supervisors should be used in these circumstances;
  • Seizures of illegal drugs or weapons should be recorded and the Police notified.

The above are general practical points and not a summary of the law. The actual detail of your search policy should be prepared with your security company and if necessary the Police. However, if a serious incident involving a weapon takes place at your premises the first question that will be asked is how did that weapon get into the premises in the first place? In order to answer that question effectively and reduce the risk of emergency Police powers being used to potentially close your premises you need to have a robust search policy, consistently applied and which reflects the level of risk perceived at the time the incident took place.

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