Oxford police have come under fire this week for apparently failing to take reports of bouncer violence seriously, following the release of new police figures.
According to Freedom of Information figures obtained by The Oxford Student, Thames Valley Police did not record a single offence in Oxford during 2012 or 2013 in which a bouncer was the alleged offender, and only 5 in 2014.
These fairly low numbers stand in contrast to student accounts of widespread bouncer violence, in which nightclub staff have been accused of dragging students out of clubs for “absolutely no reason”, threatening students with excessive physical violence, and angrily shoving students against walls.
Some students have gone as far as to blame this apparent under-reporting of bouncer violence on a “police culture in which students are not taken seriously”.
“Their attitude is always just ‘look at these annoying drunk students complaining about something’,” one second-year undergraduate and victim of bouncer violence commented, “it creates an atmosphere in which students are discouraged from complaining about ridiculous and excessive bouncer violence because they think they won’t be taken seriously”.
One History student, who did not wish to be named, described a recent incident at an Oxford nightclub in which a bouncer “hooked me in the right temple”, leaving “a big purple bruise over my eye for the next week”.
“I never touched the bouncer in question,” the student continued, “or even came within a threatening distance of him.” When he called Thames Valley Police to report the assault, however, the officers were allegedly “not interested” in responding to the complaint.
A spokesperson for the nightclub, which cannot be named for legal reasons, said they were “surprised and puzzled” by the allegations, adding that “the safety and wellbeing of our customers is of paramount importance”.
Another second-year humanities student described a similar account, in which they were assaulted by a member of security staff at Wadham College’s Queerfest in November last year. “I was pretty drunk, and I was urinating in a secluded outdoor corner next to the portable toilets. A bouncer approached me from behind and, instead of telling me to stop (which would have been perfectly reasonable), he decided to shove me into the wall as hard as he could. I think it may have fractured my hand because it was in pain for weeks.”
“I was pretty shaken up afterwards,” the Queerfest student continued, “and even considered reporting it to the police, but I’ve got the impression from my friends that officers don’t take that sort of thing seriously at all, and so didn’t bother. It’s a shame, because bouncer violence in Oxford is really widespread – pretty much all of my friends have encountered it – yet nobody seems to report it to the police.”
The Queerfest bouncer was an employee of a private security company, and is not directly related to Wadham College.
Lava Ignite nightclub, informally known as Park End, was frequently targeted in the student complaints given to The Oxford Student. A club spokesperson confirmed, however, that “there has never been a case of door supervisor violence investigated by the police at our venue”; further suggesting that students are declining to report instances of bouncer violence to the police. Lava Ignite added that their door staff are “fully qualified and trained to the highest standards”.
Popular nightclub Camera was also the target of allegations, with one fresher describing an occasion in which his “drunk and unresponsive” friend was pinned against the wall in arm locks and aggressively removed from the venue.
OUSU Welfare VP Chris Pike described the apparent under-reporting of bouncer violence as “incredibly concerning”.
“Students and locals need to be able to feel secure that the bouncers who are so aggressive towards their patrons will be dealt with and disciplined,” he continued, “this is an issue which the police need to address – they have a responsibility to ensure that people know they will be taken seriously when reporting crimes.”
Not every report given to The Oxford Student was so critical of the police, however. Exeter English student Frankie Nicholls, whose account was originally described in Cherwell earlier this year, told The Oxford Student that she was “lifted down two flights of stairs” in Lava Ignite for little apparent reason. The bouncer later “pushed out his bum and smacked it, and put up a teasing middle-finger before laughing with his other bouncer ‘mate’.”
After reporting the incident to Thames Valley Police, their response was “brilliant”, with officers “visiting me at college and informing me of the investigation’s progression”.
Thames Valley Police did not respond to our request for comment.
Photo/The Local Data Company