Coroner Mary Hassell: ‘A problem much wider than one nightclub’. Cameron Leslie: ‘If we get this right, people won’t notice the difference’
Fabric nightclub in Farringdon
Published: 6 January, 2017
by JOE COOPER and KOOS COUVÉE
A LEADING coroner this week appeared to back nightclub Fabric’s call for warnings to be issued about the risks of taking increasingly dangerous party drugs.
At an inquest on Wednesday into the death of a teenager who died after taking the drug MDMA at the Farringdon club, Fabric’s general manager Luke Laws said that a huge jump in the potency of the drug in the past five years was part of the reason there has been a spike in deaths nationally.
“Nobody is telling kids what’s going on [with the increased strength of MDMA],” he said.
His comments came days before Fabric reopens tonight (Friday) after a five-month closure following two drug deaths at the club over the summer.
And north London coroner Mary Hassell echoed Mr Laws’ comments, saying: “This is the fourth death in Fabric that I have dealt with. There are certainly issues with Fabric, but this is a problem much wider than one nightclub.
“Mr Laws said he recognises a conflict between crime and disorder and public health and I can see that every time I sit in an inquest regarding a drug death, and I sit in many, in all sorts of situations – nightclubs, in people’s homes. It strikes me forcibly that there is this struggle between the criminal justice system and public health. It is something we as a society are grappling with.”
Fabric was shut down by Islington Council in September. A licence review was forced by police after 18-year-olds Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley died after taking drugs at the club on June 26 and August 6.
The closure of the club sparked a fiery debate about drug policy in Britain and the future of London’s night-time economy. But in November the club reached a deal with the Town Hall centred around a strict new licensing regime, allowing it to reopen.
Speaking at the Poplar inquest into the death of Mr Crossley this week, Mr Laws said that in 2010 the average ecstasy pill might contain10-80mg MDMA but today it can be up to 400mg.
He said the club would do “everything in its power” to prevent drug use but he could not promise people would not smuggle drugs in.
“If we had the silver bullet which would stop people using MDMA we would use it,” he said. “You can enjoy music without drugs.”
He called for a “pragmatic” approach to drug policy so that people could more easily access reliable information on the risks of drug taking.
Fabric will reopen tonight with a Friends and Family weekend, featuring appearances by veteran DJs and surprise guests.
The new licensing conditions include lifetime bans for anyone caught trying to buy drugs in the club, covert surveillance, a beefed-up searching policy and an over-19s-only rule from Friday to Sunday.
Professional Security, a Leeds-based firm which specialises in large-scale events, has been contracted to oversee security at the club.
Mr Laws explained that further measures include better lighting to stop people taking drugs in dark corners and a member of staff monitoring upgraded CCTV. A new welfare officer has been appointed. All 140 staff members have been trained in the club’s new welfare measures.
Co-founder Cameron Leslie insisted the nightclub will still be viable despite its tough new licensing conditions. “There will, of course, be effects on the business from the new measures,” he said. “But if we get this right, people won’t notice the difference. The crowd, sound system and music will still be the same. These are the most important elements to Fabric and what we’ve always been about.
“We need everyone to come with a respect for our zero-tolerance drugs policy and also to take care of themselves and each other. Welfare is paramount so if anyone doesn’t feel well they should let any member of our staff know. They’ve all undergone training to be able to look after our customers’ wellbeing.”