Club managers' liability in lap of judges

Do offers of sex from lap dancers constitute a failure by night club managers to maintain good order? asks Roger Pearson.

Lord Bingham, the Lord Chief Justice, agreed to differ with Mr Justice Collins over what the actions of lap dancers at three London clubs amount to in the eyes of the law. As a result, this is now to be reconsidered by more judges.

Magistrates at Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court in London refused to hold that in allowing girls to offer sex to punters, night club managers are guilty of failing to maintain good order.

But Lord Bingham and Mr Justice Collins recently failed to agree on whether the magistrates were right or wrong. As a result the question is to be reconsidered, this time by three judges, to ensure that a majority decision is reached.

Lord Bingham and Mr Justice Collins were told that when plain clothes police officers visited the clubs, the dancers performed suggestive routines which included erotic physical contact with the officers.

At u5 a dance, one officer paid for a girl who rubbed her breasts against his thighs and her face "over his genital area".

Both Lord Bingham and Mr Justice Collins were satisfied the dance routines amounted to "performances wholly or mainly comprised of sexual stimulation" and breached licensing rules in respect of places of public entertainment.

They dismissed appeals by the club bosses against convictions for those offences.

However, the judges were also told that, after dancing, the girls made offers of sex. One officer was told by a girl called Nadine that for u300 an hour he would get "the best sex" he had "ever had".

The legal question posed by such offers was whether they rendered the club bosses guilty of the offence of failing to maintain good order in their clubs.

The magistrates decided that as the girls were not overheard making the offers, they did not render them guilty. But Lord Bingham and Mr Justice Collins failed to agree on whether they were right. One of the two – it has not been revealed which – thinks the club bosses are in the clear. The other, however, thinks the sex offers of the girls render them guilty.