Otley Run: Sexual harassment of women and public urination among increasing complaints

Sexual harassment of women and public urination are among a rising number of complaints Leeds City councillors  have received about some drinkers' behaviour on the Otley Run pub crawl.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 2:28 pm

Councillors say since Covid restrictions ended they have received a "large and growing" number of complaints about the increasing numbers of drunk and noisy drinkers on a route known as the Otley Run.

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Headingley and Hyde Park Labour councillors Al Garthwaite, Jonathon Pryor and Neil Walshaw have organised a special public meeting focusing on noise and anti social behaviour later this month.

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Headingley and Hyde Park councillors (from left) Neil Walshaw, Al Garthwaite and Jonathon Pryor are pictured using anti-urine paint in 2018.

They have raised concerns with Leeds City Council's licensing department.

The three councillors said in a statement about the Otley Run posted on social media: "In particular, the behaviour of some of the men in the all-male groups has worsened.

"Women have complained of harassment, both verbal and physical.

"Some of these are student groups but the ones we receive the most serious complaints about tend to be in their late 20s to 50s and can cause excessive noise, public urination, public drunkenness.

" Pedestrians of all ages being forced off the pavements into the road, drinkers straying across the road with no regard to safety, holding up traffic which is already heavy and congested there, delaying buses, sexual harassment of women and generally intimidating behaviour.

"While we don’t want to prevent people not bothering anyone from enjoying themselves, we do need to take action.

"All bars and pubs on the Otley Run will be receiving a visit and formal communication, reminding them of the conditions of their license - which include the rule that they cannot serve drunk customers and doing so can put their license at risk.

"As local councillors we have painted anti-urine paint in some key areas which splashes back.

"This might not prevent all public urination but may make people think about doing it a second time."

The councillors said they would be speaking to bars and pubs about their role in tackling sexual harassment and drink spiking.

The three councillors said that Wetherspoons were granted a licence for The Golden Beam in Headingley with a condition they would not allow Otley run groups into the venue and that it would be a "food led" pub.

The councillors said: "In the last week alone, we have heard reports of Otley runners being turned away from Wetherspoons, but also on a different day large rowdy groups being let in.

"We have been in touch with Wetherspoons to raise the concern that their policy is not being applied uniformly, but this meeting is your opportunity to raise this if you wish to too.

"On the wider issue of anti-social behaviour, we recently announced the significant increase of resource from the universities to tackle this, including proactive patrols seven nights a week.

"We will be holding a public meeting very soon to give anyone the chance to field any questions they may have to the police, ASB teams and the universities.

"We’re attempting to finalise a date with all parties concerned and this will be announced shortly as soon as we have one all can attend.

Residents are being invited to a meeting to discuss noise and anti-social behaviour at 6.30pm on November 16 at the Cardigan Community Centre, Cardigan Road, Hyde Park, Leeds, LS6 1LJ.

The meeting will be attended by the councillors, Leeds City Council's anti-social behaviour team, West Yorkshire Police and senior representatives from the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University.

The councillors said: "It is an opportunity for stakeholders such as the Universities, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police to discuss their response to these issues.

"Most importantly it will be an opportunity for members of our community to discuss the problems they have faced.

A Leeds City Council Spokesperson said: “We continue to work alongside our partners - West Yorkshire Police and the universities - to do everything we can to ensure everyone can enjoy a night out in a safe and comfortable environment.

"We work closely with licensees to ensure they understand their obligations and have suitable training in place as safety remains a high priority for us.

“We will shortly be launching the Ask for Angela initiative so that anyone who feels unsafe can ask for Angela at the bar to indicate they need assistance.

"If you have experienced antisocial behaviour it is important that you report it through our website and if you have been the victim of a crime report it on 101 or 999 if it is an emergency.”

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are sorry that anti- social behaviour from participants in the Otley Run is causing increasing problems to the local community.

“We liaised closely with councillors Walshaw and Pryor before finally obtaining the premises licence for The Golden Beam .

“Given the long standing concerns they raised about the Otley Run at the time, we made clear that the pub would not participate in it and volunteered a licensing condition that participants would not be admitted.

“As the councillors have acknowledged, The Golden Beam has actively been refusing entry to groups of people believed to be participating in the Otley Run. The pub will continue to monitor and refuse admission on this basis.

“The pub has been holding regular residents meetings since opening. Issues relating to the entry of Otley Run participants into the pub, or indeed large groups in general , have not been raised by attendees nor separately by the police.

“We will of course be happy to meet with the local ward councillors to discuss any specific concerns they have with the Golden Beam and an invitation has already been issued to them for that purpose”

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