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Bar owner berated for missing CCTV footage

Ballina bar owner berated by Judge Devins for erased CCTV footage

Trevor Quinn

THE Chief Executive of the Irish Nightclub Industry Association (INIA) Barry O’Sullivan has claimed there is a lack of clarity and uniformity in relation to how ambiguously CCTV requirements are applied and enforced in Irish nightclubs.
Mr O’Sullivan said that the practice of how this law is enforced is by no means uniform, and the ambiguity of what is ‘adequate’, means that there is often incidences of inconsistency in relation to the legislation.
He was speaking in the aftermath of a case in Ballina last week where a Ballina bar owner was criticised by a Judge after footage of a section three assault was deleted from his system just one day after the incident.
The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 states that ‘extended opening hours for events to which the public are admitted will be conditional on the premise having an adequate, and fully operational, CCTV system’.
Speaking to The Mayo News Mr O’Sullivan said, “It is up to every local district judge to decide what is adequate and what he or she decides often bears no specific rationale to the requirements of the premises.”
Judge Mary Devins was critical of Ballina late bar owner Paul Murphy at last week’s sitting of Ballina District Court and she reminded him that conditions attached to his dance licence compelled him to ensure adequate CCTV was in operation at Crockett’s late bar on The Quay, Ballina.
Mr O’Sullivan stated, “Before this requirement for CCTV was introduced in 2008, the INIA engaged with the Department of Justice, and the Judiciary, to try to make this requirement more objective and clear. The INIA promoted that adequate CCTV should be defined as having a minimum of one CCTV camera for every 30 persons of the licensed capacity for the venue. It would also be required to have the necessary equipment to store at least 30 days worth of CCTV data.”
“In 2003 an INIA industry survey, showed that 97 per cent of respondents used CCTV systems, and I would suggest that figure is effectively 100 per cent now. Nightclubs cannot legally or commercially operate without them, they are vital.
“While a Georgian style building in Dublin may require significantly more CCTV cameras than say a warehouse type building down the country, both nightclub premises will come under the same umbrella of legislation. It really is ambiguous at best.”
During the case involving defendant Thomas Lawless, Muckanagh, Parke, Castlebar, evidence was heard of an alleged assault which took place in Crockett’s on The Quay in Ballina. However, there was no independent evidence available as the CCTV had been deleted when it was requested by Gardaí.
Judge Devins said that the provision of adequate CCTV was a requirement which needed to be urgently addressed if Mr Murphy’s dance licence was to be renewed. She added: “The renewal for your dance licence is up in September. Unless you address the CCTV and ensure it is working properly you won’t be getting one.”
Mr Murphy told the court that he had viewed CCTV footage after the incident but the cameras in the area of the alleged assault had been obscured and had not adequately captured the alleged assault. When the injured party formally made a complaint a day after the alleged incident gardaí, contacted Mr Murphy and arranged to view the CCTV. However due to a timed clearing of the system Mr Murphy told the gardaí that it had been unintentionally wiped from the system.
Judge Devins said she was not happy with the amount of ‘omissions’ and ‘manufactured’ evidence which she was being told under oath and she said CCTV was the only reliable independent way to adjudicate the matter. She dismissed the case.
However, Judge Devins did acknowledged that incidences and complaints of this nature have fallen significantly since the conditions regarding CCTV were brought into force in 2008, and she insisted that the stipulations were there for a very good reason.