An “iconic Camden Town institution” has been told to work more closely with police after a licence review that could have seen its opening hours cut.
Police asked for a review because of their concerns that staff at the Elephants Head did not contact police after an alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old woman and other alleged incidents.
The police asked Camden Council to cut the hours to midnight at the historic pub at a busy junction on Camden High Street which is currently open from 7am to 2.30am.
They said it was essential to call police so they can investigate and find suspects and gives them a better chance of detecting crime if they are called in the crucial “golden hour” immediately after an incident.
PC Joel Francis said: “By not informing police at the earliest opportunity it has undermined the investigation.”
He told Camden’s licensing committee: “We made it very clear that police need not be called in any incident such as this, especially with women’s vulnerability.”
He said there were a series of incidents where staff at the Elephants Head did not call officers immediately and there were some incidents were suspects were ejected from the pub.
These included two incidents of alleged drink-spiking.
This was despite repeated conversations with the venue and training about women’s safety.
He pointed out it was also essential to call police as incidents can escalate quickly when people are drunk.
He said the problems arise late at night as “people are using it as late-night bar venue” and it suffers from “nightclub-style crime”.
He said: “On repeated meetings we have stressed to call the police to all crimes of disorder.”
He showed footage of an altercation on the street near the pub and said he was concerned that the suspect was not detained, and police not called.
Sarah Taylor acting for the pub showed footage inside the venue where the alleged suspect is ejected, showing the incident was not on pub premises.
The council’s licensing team said there were “insufficient controls” despite “numerous warnings”.
Former police office Neil Todd spoke on behalf of the pub’s management.
He said: “The Elephants Head has not stood still and has overhauled all policy and procedures.”
This included asking security staff to do conflict management training and sending people Ask Angela training to support vulnerable women and WAVE (Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement) training.
Security staff also have body cameras so they can give potential evidence to the police.
They also provide and pay for taxis for vulnerable people.
Lawyer Sarah Le Fevre said the proposed reduction of hours would be “catastrophic”. She said there were many examples of times the pub had called the police to incidents or refused entry to people and there was evidence the new measures were working.
She explained the pub was not aware of the first allegation of drink spiking until days later and searched a suspect and called the police on the second occasion.
Henry Conlon, the chairman of Camden Inner London Licensees Association said: “The Elephants Head is a really well-run premises.”
He said it was rare for his organisation to give evidence at licensing hearings and said: “If you look at all the accusations individually they are not very strong at all.”
Committee chair Jonathan Simpson said: “This is a very serious matter, the police were right to call for a review.”
After a three-hour hearing the licensing committee decided last admissions should be at 1am, rejecting the police request to cut it back further.