Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Chris Nelson is leading the movement against sexual entertainment in the county.
He is targeting a loophole in the law that allows any licensed premises to offer sexual entertainment without official permission.
The PCC was previously frustrated when he joined other opponents to an application from a venue in Cheltenham to offer sexual entertainment during the National Hunt Festival, which is due to take place in March. Now he is renewing his opposition.
He is calling for the repeal of the part of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which allows any licensed premises to offer sexual entertainment without first notifying the police, local council or local residents.
Mr. Nelson, who today launches his first Police and Crime Prevention Plan, in which tacking violence and intimidation of women and girls is a priority, is starting a petition (hyperlink to be added) he hopes will influence the Government to bring about an urgent change in the law, and asking the County’s district and borough councils to outlaw such establishments.
He said: “I understand how current legislation has made it difficult for councillors to refuse sexual entertainment applications in the past, especially when there is a precedent as was the case in November. But someone needs to take a lead in changing the culture of immoral behaviour towards lone women in the area.
“I want Gloucestershire to be the safest place in the country to live and work, and yet a survey commissioned by Cheltenham Borough Council found that 75% of women feel less safe on the town’s streets during race week and 82% had suffered from some form of sexual harassment.
“We cannot, on one hand, say ‘something must be done’ and then not take that action when an opportunity presents itself. We have a duty, by any means necessary, to eradicate discrimination, harassment and abuse against women and girls and do everything we can to ensure their safety. Not only during race weeks in Cheltenham but every other day too. That is why I have made tackling violence and intimidation against women and girls a priority in my new Police and Crime Prevention Plan, and why I have launched this petition.”
The first to endorse the PCC’s petition, available at https://chng.it/jzrKy7GKG5, is the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Reverend Rachel Treweek. “I fully support this petition and would urge people to sign it”, she said.
“We need to take urgent action to tackle all violence against women and girls, and part of that is about making our streets and towns safer. Allowing any licensed premises to offer sexual entertainment objectifies women and exacerbates the risk of women and girls being abused.
“The issue of violence against women and girls in England has recently been highlighted by some horrifying headline cases, and my hope is that this petition will influence the Government to bring about an urgent change in the law.”
Under current legislation, any licenced premises is allowed to provide a variety of sexual entertainment up to 11 times a year, providing there is at least one month apart. It is a loophole which means different venues can ‘pop-up’ randomly and offer similar entertainment without any outside regulation around conduct and safety.
Three local charities supporting vulnerable women, Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (GRASAC), the Nelson Trust and Cheltenham Guardians have all previously voiced their opposition to such clubs and have signed the petition.
Mr. Nelson will need a minimum 100,000 thousand signatures to have the issue debated in Parliament. 10,000 signatures are needed to bring about a response from the Government.