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Ilford party venue Praba keeps its licence despite stabbing, shootings and drugs use

PUBLISHED: 16:53 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:53 04 August 2017

Praba Banqueting Suite with police tape in February, after a man was stabbed outside while a party was ongoing. Picture: Ken Mears

Praba Banqueting Suite with police tape in February, after a man was stabbed outside while a party was ongoing. Picture: Ken Mears

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A notorious party venue in Ilford will continue to operate, despite at least two guns – one a semi-automatic military handgun – being smuggled into an event there in June.

A Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic handgun of the kind smuggled into Praba Banqueting Suite, Ilford, on June 5. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsA Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic handgun of the kind smuggled into Praba Banqueting Suite, Ilford, on June 5. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Police officers told members of Redbridge Council’s licensing sub-committee today that they had “totally lost trust” in the premises managers to effectively run Praba Banqueting Suite in High Road.

But instead of revoking the licence, councillors instead added further conditions to the venue’s current requirements, meaning that promoter-led parties stretching on into the early hours of the morning may now be a thing of the past.

Police originally requested the committee revoke the premises licence to sell alcohol and provide late night entertainment after two serious incidents at the venue in four months earlier this year.

On February 5, a man was found in a car outside the venue after being stabbed while a party was being held there.

A gun was also discharged, and onlookers described the scene as “like a war zone” as up to 1,000 people brawled in a mass melee as they attempted to flee the area.

A man was also shot in the leg at another event at Praba in the early hours of June 5.

Other gunshots were reported at the Lidl supermarket a matter of yards away.

The police’s request to revoke the licence would have forced the venue to close, and was supported by the council’s own licensing team.

Merrow Golden, representing the police, said: “These are life threatening crimes and it seems to the police as though people who are engaged in crime and disorder see the premises as a place they can take part in that lifestyle.

“We would say that is because the licensees have shown they are unable to properly manage the premises.”

Four spent cartridges were found inside Praba after the June 5 incident and a forensic investigation led police to conclude that two separate guns had been fired at the venue, one of them believed to be a Browning Hi-Power – a handgun used by armed forces across the world.

Police licensing officer Pc Ian Taylor told the committee: “This isn’t some small James Bond style weapon that you could hide in your pocket.

“This is a powerful, high calibre, 9mm weapon, about six to eight inches long. How did that get onto the premises?”

Police also found evidence of drugs use and tobacco smoking inside the venue that night, and pointed out that 600 people had been in attendance and the party had gone on until 6am - both in contravention of the premises’ licence.

Anthony Edwards, representing Praba, said the suite had “a huge security presence” on the night in question – well above the usual level – with wristbands a requirement for guests.

Full searches were also carried out at the entrance, he claimed, and any drugs that were found had been seized.

He said: “We had 29 security staff operating both inside and outside the venue and everyone that entered was made to go through a metal detector.

“There is also comprehensive CCTV at the site that is being constantly monitored – having inspected the site myself it appears as though the people who got in managed to break through a fence into the smoking area in order to gain access to the premises.”

And in response to the stabbing in February, Mr Edwards maintained that the police had found no evidence to suggest the attack had taken place at Praba as no blood was ever found at the venue and the victim was found outside.

Although Praba’s management were at the June event, a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) had been filed by a promoter named Carlos Costa, meaning that all responsibilities for the venue that night rested with him.

He had not attempted to run events at Praba before that night, and has not attempted to organise any since.

The fact that a TEN was in place that night, Mr Edwards said, meant any attempt to revoke Praba’s actual licence was “misconceived” by both the police and the council, as that licence had never been in effect that night.

After hearing representations from both sides, the sub-committee, chaired by Councillor Paul Canal, adjourned for more than 45 minutes to make its decision.

They determined that revoking Praba’s licence would not be a proportionate response, but imposed two further conditions – that the venue can no longer host events organised by promoters, and that any future TEN’s filed at the venue will have to abide by the full terms of the venue’s licence.

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