A Follow-Up To Our Waterfront Statement Regarding Events in February 2022
In February, a 36 second video was posted on social media relating to events that had occurred at the Waterfront in Norwich. We are extremely sorry that the contents of the video have been triggering for some and upsetting for many. We take women’s safety and the safety of all our customers and staff, very seriously and understand that what people saw on the video may have concerned them.
Our approach is always to be open and honest and we appreciate why people are calling for clarity and reassurance over this matter. However, it would not have been fair to either the people in the video or our staff to say anything until we had more of the facts. We were also mindful of a potential investigation by Norfolk Constabulary, which is now underway.
We strongly refute the allegations made on social media surrounding our duty of care and the conduct of our staff. We welcome the ongoing police investigation and are working closely with Norfolk Constabulary to support their enquiries, including supplying all our CCTV footage, statements from independent witnesses and our staff.
The short, 36 second video that was posted on social media platforms does not reflect the full story of what took place at the Waterfront and other locations on 18 February. Having completed an internal investigation including liaising with the police, collating and cross referencing our staff statements, CCTV and independent witness statements. Below are our findings - we ask that you read this with an open mind and consider all the facts and then make your own judgement.
Starting at 22.15 outside the Glass House, an independent witness sees a woman (woman 1) in a state of distress, in the road loudly stating they need help as the Security staff at the Glass House wouldn’t help. The witnesses sought to comfort them, concerned they may have been attacked or the victim of an incident. They explained they had been banned for life from the Glass House for buying drinks for minors and the Security wouldn’t let her go back in to use the toilets. Woman 1’s friend (woman 2) said they were waiting for a taxi to the Waterfront, which arrived at 22.30.
The following occurred at the Waterfront prior to the video, between 22.40 and 23.55 As reported by witnesses:
- They both approached a member of the Bar team and asked if they had any cocaine for sale.
- They approached a group of customers in the bar, to ask to buy cocaine.
- Had an argument with a customer (customer 1) as he had cautioned them about the merit of recreational drug taking.
At 23.55 in the smoking area, they approach three members of the Security team and:
- Woman 1 says Woman 2’s drink had been spiked.
- Security staff went with them and they both point to customer 1 and say he spiked woman 2’s drink.
- A Security team member approached customer 1 to speak to him about the complaint.
- Customer 1 sees them both and says he has already told them he doesn’t do drugs; he explains to the Security team member what had happened in the bar area earlier.
- One of the two women shouts to customer 1 that he shouldn’t have had a go at them because they take drugs.
- The Security team make an assessment that the two women are falsely reporting customer 1 and explain they shouldn’t make false allegations about such a serious matter.
- The two women became increasingly loud, aggressive and abusive towards the Security team.
- Woman 2 whispers to woman 1 and woman 1 falls to the floor. Woman 2 says woman 1 has a pre-existing medical condition and she fainted because security is stressing her out.
- A first aid trained Security staff member assessed the situation and as woman 1 was conscious she couldn’t be put into the recovery position.
- Another customer (customer 2) involves himself and starts interfering with the Security team demanding they call an ambulance.
- Woman 2 then accuses customer 2 of spiking woman 1’s drink.
- The Security team determine the best thing to do is carry woman 1 out through the gate away from the other customers, whilst receiving continued verbal abuse from both women.
- Once outside woman 1 was put on the ground and the Security team called the supervisor.
- Whilst the Security staff continued the observation of woman 1 – they hear woman 2 say to woman 1, "calm down you’re making it too obvious".
- The Security staff inform the supervisor of the situation. The supervisor and a female Security team member both attend and offer help but are again met with verbal abuse and this is where the filming starts.
The video - whilst it may have appeared in the short clip the two Waterfront staff did not help the customer; we are satisfied the situation was handled appropriately. To address several specific issues raised:
- Where Security staff put their hands in their pockets and stand back this was a deliberately passive, non-threatening gesture and a common practice which professional door staff adopt.
- Similarly, standard procedure is for Security staff not to give their name if being recorded and to move away from the situation.
- Whilst it was not shown in the video clip, our staff did call an ambulance at 00.15.
- At no point was woman 1 left alone woman 2 was with her and staff continued to observe.
After the video - the two women proceeded to run at the gate kicking it whilst verbally abusing Security staff. This continued for a few minutes causing damage to the property. Customer 2 continued to interfere with staff to the point where he was removed from the venue at 00.08.
Following this, witnesses and CCTV confirm:
- The two women approached a side fire exit and start banging on the door.
- Customer 2 then approached the two women by the side fire exit.
- CCTV shows the two women physically assault customer 2.
- Two Security staff members intervene and restrain them both.
- Customer 2 was escorted off the premises to the street by Security staff.
- The two women approach the two Security staff from the video, they both verbally abuse the Security staff.
- Woman 1 is seen throwing a punch at a Security team member.
- Woman 1 then falls backwards onto the floor as the Security Supervisor in self-defence had pushed her away.
- Both the women continued to verbally abuse the Security staff.
- Woman 1 gets up off the ground and the two women leave the site.
- The Security team had called the police, but this is cancelled when they leave the premises.
Following this an independent witness reported to us that they were walking with friends along King Street and saw an altercation. Thinking that females were being assaulted by a male, they intervened, it transpired that woman 1 and woman 2 were again attacking customer 2. In addition, one of the witness’ friends was assaulted by woman 1. Following that both woman 1 and woman 2 then left the scene by taxi. The ambulance we requested at their insistence arrived which was regrettably a wasted journey.
We believe woman 1 had not been spiked in our venue based on:
- The behaviours she displayed at our venue were consistent with the behaviours noted by the witness at the Glass House prior to entry to our venue.
- Our experience, training and the testimony of those who have been spiked highlight the most common symptoms of spiking are numbness of limbs, loss of coordination, feeling frozen, unable to move and loss of consciousness – woman 1 did not report or display any of these symptoms.
- Woman 1 accused both someone with whom they had had a previous argument and then another customer who involved himself trying to offer them support.
- Initially woman 1 claimed woman 2’s drink had been spiked and not her own.
- When woman 1 collapses in the smoking area Security staff hear her friend say to her ‘calm down you’re making it too obvious”.
- The symptoms in the video appear inconsistent with woman 1’s behaviour 12 minutes later when she was damaging property and assaulting people.
- We have also been informed that a few weeks prior to this event an ambulance attended the Waterfront for woman 1 as she alleged, she had been spiked. When attending the paramedics determined that from her behaviour, they didn’t believe she had been spiked and when challenged woman 1 had got up and walked away.
We are deeply concerned at the social media response to the 36 seconds of footage. People can be very quick to judge, our staff have received death threats. We have also been concerned about sharing the details of our investigation due to the potential impact on the two women in the video. We ask that people on social media exercise restraint and we hope they do not experience the sort of negative attention that our staff have received.
The real shame of this episode is that we believe our venue to be a safe place, our staff are trained on sexual violence and harassment. Anti-spiking devices are available and if someone reports to us that they have been spiked we offer them support and signpost them to the police and appropriate services. Anyone suspected of spiking is reported to the police. The disgusting behaviour of spiking that has affected so many people and been much talked about in the media is solely the responsibility of those individuals committing it. But we believe it is part of a wider culture of discrimination and harassment towards women that we all need to call out. False allegations of spiking actually make it harder for women to come forward and be taken seriously when they experience harassment or assault.
As passionate and professional venue operators, we are sector-leading in our policies and procedures around women’s safety. However, we know there is always room for improvement and lessons that can be learned. As a result of our internal investigation, we will be reviewing our training, rolling out body cameras and introducing dedicated welfare staff on club nights.
We have run the Waterfront for over 25 years and employ 100 local staff. We are proud of its longstanding position as an important and much-loved part of the live music and club scene in Norwich and the region. Thousands of customers come through our doors every week of the year and have a fantastic and safe experience. Our top priorities are ensuring customer safety and supporting artists, so everybody feels part of a vibrant and safe community. The call for a demonstration at the Waterfront is misplaced, venues are not responsible for spiking – the people who spike are – and are in fact working hard to tackle the issue. We are already working with Norwich BID, the City Council and other night-time venues on developing a Charter for Night-time Safety in Norwich.
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