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Politician: My anger at aggro on night out

Councillor calls on bars to take action on harassment

20 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Cllr Flora Williamson: ‘It doesn’t stop’

A NASTY case of unwelcome male attention has prompted a new Town Hall policy which seeks to protect women in nightclubs and pubs.

Councillor Flora Williamson did not expect her night out in Waterloo two years ago to have such a potentially huge shift in the council’s licensing policy.

“I was out with my friends having beers and food, and a group of men in their 40s and 50s, around 15 of them, kept coming up to engage in conversation throughout the evening,” said the Labour councillor for Tollington ward.

“They got more and more aggro – flicking us and making lewd comments, because we didn’t want to talk to them. I got so angry. This happened to me as a teenager, in my twenties and now my thirties – it doesn’t stop.”

Cllr Williamson, who chairs the licensing committee, put forward new proposals to protect women and young people in this year’s draft licensing policy after being inspired by measures seen in venues in south London’s Southwark.

The draft licensing policy sets out how the council will make decisions on allowing venues to operate and how the needs of residents and businesses will be addressed.

Under the new policy, venues will be encouraged to use the Met’s “Ask for Angela” scheme, an initiative that encourages any women who feel unsafe while on a date or a night out to go to the bar and ask for “Angela” to be safely escorted out of the premises.

Other measures include putting up anti-harassment posters and making sure staff are trained to deal with harassers and victims.

Although venues do not have to follow the proposed safeguarding measures, Cllr William­son believes customers and the venues will benefit.

“In certain parts of Islington getting a licence is a bit harder than elsewhere,” she said. “If it’s a well-run business there’s no reason not to sign up to sensible policies. It will make women feel more comfortable and women will go to places they may not otherwise have gone.”

The final policy will be decided by Town Hall chiefs at the end of the year, but residents can submit their views on the changes until October 29 at www.islington.gov.uk/consultations/licensing-policy-consultation-2018-to-2022

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