The “level of violence and hostility” during a mass brawl inside a Surrey bowling club was unlike anything a serving police officer had ever experienced before, they have claimed.
A fight involving about 30 people erupted at the Old Dean Bowls Club in Camberley last April with officers arriving to scenes of people having their eyes gouged, women knocked on conscious, men slumped in corners with life threatening head wounds and shattered glass all over bloodied carpets.
The officers were called out at 10.55pm and could hear “screams, shouts and smashing glasses coming from the building”. The details came from Surrey Police officer witness statements read as part of a Tuesday, July 5, Surrey Heath Borough Council licensing sub committee review into the club.
One said that as they got out of their cars they saw “around five people have been running from the building or sat down nearby crying or with injuries. A woman has been holding another female up partially as I have walked towards the door, she has shouted ‘you need to go in there now’.
“A male has said something similar next to another female in a vehicle shouting ‘don’t go, you’ll be lambs to the slaughter’.” The officer added: “The level of violence and hostility upon entry was something I have never experienced before.”
Another officer said they were warned by a female who “genuinely seemed concerned” they would be vastly outnumbered, that it was “f*g carnage in there”.
The sub-committee had already seen a lengthy clip of CCTV footage of what the police called an “utterly disgraceful scene”. The committee was hearing evidence brought by Surrey Police recommending the club lost its licence. Others argued it should be give a reprieve as it played an important role in the community – particularly as a bowls club but also in more wider terms.
Trefor Hogg, Surrey County Councillor for Camberley East said at the meeting revenue concerns pushed the club to host more events and that without the bar takings the club would find it difficult to remain open. He said the club, the town’s only secular meeting place, played a critical role in the community – which he described as an area of deprivation.
The venue, he said, is used for NHS sessions and job fairs as well as by Surrey Heath Borough Council for consultations.
Cllr Shaun Garrett Councillor, Conservative group leader at Surrey Heath, said, there was “no getting around the incident” – that the brawl failed the the four pillars of licensing; prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and protecting children. But he argued that the club was a “really important community space”. He said: “If the licence was revoked for even a short period of time the club would fold and once it’s shut it will never open again.”
The committee also heard that the club’s chairperson had since resigned and replaced with a new board that would put in strict rules to prevent any repetition of the night. The club also runs as a private members bar that hosts functions. The committee heard many functions were increasingly attended by non-members.
Licence hold Chris Turner, acknowledged the failings of the club and pledged to make changes to it’s rules, including appointing new officers to run the club, bar staff training and apply for personal licences for at least two of the committee members.
After a break to discuss the evidence committee chairperson, Councillor Valerie White, said the panel would: “Suspend the licence for a minimum of 28 days so that the mandatory steps can be taken and the club reopened with trained staff and new policies in place all proposals as per the club’s submissions…with the following amendments and additions.”
She said the club would need to have two members gain certification in order to carry out risk assessments for any functions held and to act as door supervisors if needed.
A signing-in book is to be used at all times to keep record of those attending functions, members and non-members, and that the club joins and becomes an active member of the pub–watch scheme.
Any children must be accompanied by an adult and no children under 12 after 9pm are allowed in the club. All staff who serve alcohol are to be trained every six months with written records kept.
A spokesperson for Surrey Police said they were called out to the Old Dean Bowling Club in Camberley on Friday, April 14 at around 10.50pm following reports of 30 people fighting.
A 32-year-old man, a 29-year-old woman, a 33-year-old man, a 45-year-old man and a 38-year-old man were all arrested on suspicion of violent disorder. All have been bailed while the investigation continues.