Reading Carnival licence revoked over safety fears

Image caption,
Reading Community Carnival takes place annually in May

Reading Carnival's licence has been revoked by councillors over concerns for safety.

It comes after police asked the council to revoke the licence of the annual celebration of Caribbean culture due to two stabbings at the event last year.

But the organisers at a licensing meeting on Thursday called the measure disproportionate and said they were willing to increase security there.

Licensing sub-committee members said they felt they had "no other option".

Bo-Eun Jung, barrister for Thames Valley Police, called the event a "hotspot for crime and gang activity" and said it was "only a matter of time before someone is killed at the carnival".

According to the force, a number of violent incidents took place during the event in Prospect Park in May last year including two teenagers being stabbed and reports of large fights.

Ms Jung added police "did not have confidence" in the carnival's organiser, Reading Caribbean Cultural Group (RCCG), which the force said, was "out of their depth".

Bill Donne, barrister for RCCG, said "things have to change" and organisers were committed to controlling numbers with advance tickets, hiring more security, and fencing off the event in Prospect Park after the procession.

He added "the vast majority of people were perfectly well behaved" and police had put a "very forceful case" forward.

The carnival has been running in the town since 1977.

Image caption,
Organisers previously said the review was the "outcome of bad behaviour"

The council's principal licensing and enforcement officer Clyde Masson suggested organisers should consider moving out of Prospect Park, and it should be more multicultural and not just about "one area of the town's history".

Mr Donne responded: "It isn't exclusive to people of Caribbean ancestry, it is open to all and enjoyed by all."

Delivering the decision chair of the sub-committee councillor Deborah Edwards said "there were not sufficient plans or management structure in place to ensure a well-run and safe event".

She added she hoped "whole-heartedly" the RCCG would apply for another licence in time for May 2021.

RCCG has been contacted for a comment.

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