Hotel apologises after losing crucial CCTV

Ibis, the Forum, Stevenage

Ibis, the Forum, Stevenage - Credit: Google Maps

The management of a Stevenage hotel have apologised after losing CCTV footage which could have helped a police investigation into potential child abuse.

Hertfordshire Constabulary and Stevenage Borough Council’s licensing department had raised concerns about the Ibis hotel’s ability to meet their licensing requirements after a visit to the hotel earlier this summer.

Officers had tried to gather evidence after concerns in relation to the safety of a 13-year-old staying at the hotel in June, but couldn’t reach the one off-site member of staff with access to the system until after the footage had been overwritten.

It was later found that the CCTV cameras were only storing footage for a maximum of 17 days, rather than the 28 required on their premises licence.

After a visit to the hotel, the responsible authorities also raised concerns about the lack of an incident book on site, and staff working on their own at reception.

Fairview Hotels, which manages the town’s Ibis hotel, said they had worked in partnership with the police and council following the incident to take appropriate measures in the future.

An application to review the hotel’s licence was heard by Stevenage Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee on October 19.

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During the meeting, the hotel said they were not aware of the difficulty in accessing CCTV, and more members of staff are now being trained to ensure that any requests can be dealt with promptly.

Neil Forbes, director of hotels at Fairview Hotels, said: “I would like to apologise, personally and on behalf of our company, for having to be in this position today. 

“We accept that this was completely unacceptable, and we’ve taken what we hope is the initial action to put us into a position where we’re better than we were.

He added: “It is our aim now that not only does the Ibis benefit from this situation, but that we spread this knowledge across all of our hotels so that we make ourselves a safer company and we enable safety for all our residents.”

Julia Palmer, representing Fairview Hotels, said that the company has already implemented changes including retraining staff on the risk of child safety exploitation, limiting the times in which staff are alone on reception, and upgrades to the CCTV system.

Mr Forbes said that staffing levels had been reduced as the hotel reopened following the winter lockdown, but management were not aware of any concerns.

Ms Palmer said: “My client would very much like to apologise to the committee for the fact that to come before you. It is a long standing and reputable premises license holder, and that operation has not come before you before today and without the extremely difficult and unusual circumstances as a result of COVID-19 it was very unlikely to come before you. 

“But it has, and [the company] wishes to remedy that fully, and we believe that it has gone above and beyond what has been asked for in the offer of the conditions.”

The committee’s chair Councillor Maureen McKay said she was “horrified” to see the case come to the council.

In their decision, the committee said they remain “extremely concerned” following the hearing, but acknowledged that there had been constructive steps taken by the hotel.

The committee agreed to the new conditions set out by the responsible authorities.

The new conditions include a widening of requirements on CCTV to include the hotel, rather than just the function room and bar area.

The hotel’s management will also need to comply with any requests for CCTV from the police or council within 24 hours, rather than 48 hours.

The management has also agreed to remove the condition which allows the hotel ‘off-sales’ of alcohol, meaning drinks will need to be consumed on-site.

The council’s licensing officer had previously recommended that their licence be withdrawn for two months while new measures were put in place, but this was withdrawn at the hearing after all parties said they were satisfied with the steps already taken.

It had previously been reported that the case had been discontinued, but the police have now confirmed that this is still a live investigation

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