UPDATED 11.55am: The directors and licencees of a Paceville nightclub should be arraigned on a long list of offences following the November incident which left dozens injured, according to a magisterial inquiry unveiled this morning.
During a news conference, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici listed a series of irregularities which emerged from the inquiry in the wake of one of the most serious nightclub incidents in Malta.
The incident at Plus One Club in Paceville last November caused a stampede in which 74 people were injured.
The inquiry said that the incident was sparked off following an argument between a 17-year-old Maltese national and a foreigner inside the club. At some point, an 18-year-old Maltese youth aimed pepper spray at the foreigner sparking a fight.
Upon noticing the commotion, a security person inside the club urged the revellers to leave the club but the bouncers at the door were not aware of the instruction and were not letting people out, according to the inquiry.
The last safety audit at Plus One Club had been carried out in 2004
It established that there were 34 under-age people inside the club at the time of the incident, some of whom were consuming alcohol. It also concluded there were no proper emergency exits.
Experts said that at the time of the incident there were at least 450 people, more than double of its capacity which is of 200.
The glass handrail not strong enough and had not been adequately fitted.
Fearing that more people could be hurt in the stamped, the two security officers outside the club decided to block the exit.
The security officer inside the club, who was smoking illegally, and had ordered the evacuation, was not an employee of Three Sixty Ltd. The probe revealed that he worked for Executive Security Services Ltd, which belonged to Stephen Ciangura.
Plus One is administrated by Three Sixty Limited whose directors are Hugo Chetcuti, Francis Grima, Raymond Grima and Carlos Schembri.
However, the inquiry revealed that Malta Tourism Authority licence issued in 2003, for a disco and a nightclub, was in the name of Carlos Schembri on behalf of Hugo Cast and Co Ltd and not Three Sixty Limited. The last safety audit at Plus One Club had been carried out in 2004, and "it seems" that no further risk assessments were done subsequently.
Though there were various outlets leading to adjacent clubs, none of them met the minimum standard as an emergency exit.
Some of those working at the club were not registered with the Employment and Training Corporation, including the security officer who was inside.
Not all of the persons working as security officers with Three Sixty Ltd were licenced as private warders and none had been trained in health and safety.
Magistrate Doreen Clarke concluded there were grounds to press charges against the club directors and managers of Plus One club for the lack of health and safety measures including emergency exits, failure to carry a proper risk assessment exercise, allowing underage persons, running a catering establishment with no license, transferring the licence to a third party without the MTA’s consent, selling alcohol to underage persons, making cigarettes easily available to underage people through an unguarded vending machine and smoking in a closed area.
She also suggested charges against the directors of Three Sixty Ltd, the managers on duty and the 18-year-old for causing involuntary injuries when the staircase collapsed.
Dr Bonnici said charges had already been drafted and that arraignments would be expected in the coming days, possibly by Monday.
He thanked Magistrate Clarke for the expediency and the sterling work carried out, which meant that the inquiry was concluded in a month and a half.
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