Three teenagers who died at SWG3 had taken drugs bought in venue

Scott Allison and Marcus Dick, both 18, died in August last year after visiting the premises, and an 18-year-old girl died in January.

Three teenagers who died at SWG3 had taken drugs bought in venue, police say Police Scotland

Two teenagers who attended events at Glasgow’s SWG3 before their deaths had taken drugs bought in the venue, the city’s licensing board heard.

Scott Allison and Marcus Dick, both 18, died in August last year after visiting the premises, and an 18-year-old girl died in January.

SWG3 was warned by the licensing board on Friday after Police Scotland reported drug and search policies did not appear to be “fully followed” on the night of the August event.  

A Police Scotland representative said the two 18-year-olds, who had attended the August event separately, were searched on entry and no drugs were found. 

Scott Allison took unwell after leaving the event and later died in Monklands hospital. Friends advised police they were sold drugs in the premises and “the deceased consumed a quantity of pills believed to be ecstasy.”

Marcus Dick became unwell while leaving the venue and was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where he died.

The officer said it had “not been established where this person sourced drugs from, however a post mortem revealed very high levels of MDMA and cocaine within their system.”

“The person’s friends were of the belief he had taken drugs at the event,” the police report added.

Board members heard how the Eastvale Place venue’s drug and search policies were “found to be very detailed and sufficient” by Police Scotland, but “did not appear to be fully followed on the night” of the August event.

A police review found “a few anomalies that required to be tightened up” in SWG3’s procedures. However, it added they had “gone above and beyond in many ways.”

According to the police report, on January 1, relating to the death of the 18-year-old woman, a friend had “purchased two pills from an unknown person within the premises, which they both took.”

Staff later noticed she “appeared to be unwell” and were “informed initially that the person was suffering from a diabetic hypo”. They were later told the person had “taken a pill believed to be ecstasy.”

Following treatment on site, the woman was transported to hospital via ambulance and admitted to intensive care. She died on January 4.

Police Scotland was not made aware of the incident until that date. 

Management believed ambulance control would notify the police. The board ruled that in future if anyone is taken by ambulance from the premises to hospital, SWG3 must tell Police Scotland at the time.

Police were told by the venue’s management that if customers were found with a “small amount” of drugs and passed an “attitude test” then they were permitted entry. The drugs would be “disposed of in front of them.”

Bob Javaheri, operations director at SWG3, said the attitude test, which is no longer in place, had been used with “the hope of affecting change in that person.”

He said an “impressionable” 18-year-old with a single pill would have it confiscated and would be “given a telling by security.”

Management had also advised they “didn’t really have a formal process for logging seizures of drugs or how best to dispose of them.”

Officers told staff to start implementing a “zero-tolerance approach in relation to persons attempting to enter with drugs” and make sure they are “properly logged.”

The licensing board ordered SWG3 must “seize, log and store drugs” to “the satisfaction of Police Scotland” and ensure a “zero-tolerance policy” is implemented “hand in hand with a harm reduction approach.”

Peter Lawson, representing SWG3, said the deaths were “an absolute tragedy” and a “terrible loss.”

He said customer safety is “at the very core of the operational procedures of the venue.”

“The recurring theme throughout these reports is the stark fact that young people take drugs,” Mr Lawson added.

“And despite the operation of a zero-tolerance policy before and after these events, drugs continue to get into the premises.”

He said SWG3 has taken “additional security steps… to tighten up these procedures to prevent drugs getting in.”

It has carried out audits of its procedures for all events, getting “experts in to look at all of the main operations in the premises”.

Mr Lawson also said the venue was not able to carry out strip searches to look for drugs.

The venue launched a ‘Be Sound’ harm reduction campaign, aimed at a younger demographic through social media. Mr Lawson said it would “go hand in hand with zero-tolerance.”

He concluded: “I would urge you not to suspend, vary or even revoke this licence. 

“My clients are running a nationally important venue, they have made it as safe as they possibly can, but I can guarantee to you that they will continue with their efforts to ensure the welfare of their customers remains at the heart of this operation.”

Drugs were also found by security staff and police during searches at club nights on December 2, February 10, February 17 and March 9. A number of people have been charged in relation to these discoveries.

Police have inspected the venue on 25 occasions since August 13 and identified no issues. They reported staff have been “co-operative and helpful” and the premises has “a robust drugs policy in place which is now being fully followed and complied with”.

At the hearing on Friday, board members decided against suspending or revoking the venue’s premises licence – instead opting for a warning.

A spokesman for Glasgow Licensing Board said:   “In circumstances where three young people tragically lost their lives, there were clear grounds for these premises to be subject to a premises review hearing.

Following consideration of all the information presented at the hearing, the board considered it appropriate to issue the licence holder with a written warning.

In line with licensing law, the purpose of a review hearing is to ensure safeguards are in place to prevent future incidents, rather than take punitive action.

“From the submissions made by the licence holder, steps have already been taken to address the issues raised by this review and the licence holder has been warned they must now fulfil these commitments.”

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