Serious Crime Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Live Nation (SC 13)

1. Introduction

1.1 On 7th January 2015 the Scrutiny Unit of the House of Commons invited interested parties with relevant expertise and experience to "Have your say" on the Serious Crime Bill by submitting their views in writing to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee, which is scheduled to consider the Bill between 13th – 22nd January.

1.2 This submission has been produced in response to that invitation on behalf of Live Nation. Live Nation is one of the world’s leading entertainment companies and the world’s largest promoter of live music concerts. We have extensive experience of the live event industry and the challenges and requirement of managing events. Our submission concerns the issue of the increasing use of flares, fireworks and smoke bombs at concerts and live events.

2. Context of our submission

2.1 Flares, fireworks and smoke bombs are dangerous when used inappropriately. Flares – often manufactured for legitimate military, maritime or transport purposes – can burn as hot as 1,600°C for as long as an hour. Any burns caused by a flare are likely to be extreme. Fireworks can be equally dangerous, with a simple sparkler burning up to 2000°C and rockets travelling at up to 150 miles per hour. Smoke bombs can also burn at high temperatures. They are designed for use in open spaces and can be dangerous in confined spaces for those with asthma and breathing difficulties.

2.2 It is very difficult to extinguish pyrotechnics once lit because they often contain burning metals. Even after they stop burning, they will be too hot to handle for some time and could still set fire to flammable items like litter. In crowds, flares or smoke bombs cause serious burns, smoke inhalation injuries and panic or asthma attacks.

2.3 Legislation has existed since 1985 concerning the use of pyrotechnics at football grounds. Under the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 it is an offence for a person to enter or attempt to enter a football ground while in possession of a flare, smoke bomb or firework. The sentence for these offences can be as much as three months in prison, and in many cases, fans who have no previous convictions are given prison sentences for attempting to enter a football ground with a smoke bomb in their pocket as the courts take these offences very seriously. Recently, fans who have been caught at football matches with smoke bombs have been given sentences between 1 and 2 months and banned from returning to football grounds for up to 6 years. This demonstrates the severity with which authorities treat this issue when it relates to football matches.

2.4 It is also an offence for a person under the age of 18 to be found carrying a firework or flare in a public place. Smoke bombs have the Firework Standard label on them and will be classed as a firework. However, in contrast to legislation around football matches, no specific offence exists for adults caught carrying flares or fireworks in crowded places (such as festivals or concerts) unless it can be proven that they were carried with intent to cause injury.

2.5 Many event venues, live event organisers and stadiums have their own regulations on prohibited items. However no statutory regulation currently exists and the use of flares, fireworks and smoke bombs at concerts and live events is becoming an increasing problem.

2.6 There have been a number of public information campaigns on the dangers and legal consequences of getting caught with a flare, firework or smoke bomb at football matches. The Government has taken a strong stance against flares at football matches, with former Policing Minister Damian Green warning last year that they put other supporters’ lives at risk.

2.7 We believe that music and other live event fans deserve the same protection offered to football fans by extending laws preventing the possession of flares, fireworks and smoke bombs to sports matches to cover other events. The police and judiciary require the legislative power to ensure that incidents involving flares, fireworks and smoke bombs can be tackled effectively and appropriate sentencing considered.

3. Proposed Amendment

3.1 We would like to see this inconsistency in legislation removed and live event fans afforded the same protection as football fans.

3.2 We would like to see an amendment introduced to the Serious Crime Bill that places new legislative restrictions on the possession of fireworks, flares or smoke bombs in public places such as at live events, concerts and festivals. We would like to see the criminal conviction for the possession of flares at such events brought in line with existing legislation governing the use of flares at football grounds.

3.3 We believe this is a priority as the incidence of the use of pyrotechnics is rising, placing fans and our employees at risk.

3.4 We would be happy to assist with the drafting of this amendment if this is considered helpful.

January 2015

Prepared 22nd January 2015