Mutiny inquest: Festival organisers defend event’s security after drug deaths

Mutiny Festival organiser Luke Betts leaves the inquest of Georgia Jones.''Picture: Sarah Standing (180828-8504)
Mutiny Festival organiser Luke Betts leaves the inquest of Georgia Jones.''Picture: Sarah Standing (180828-8504)
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BOSSES at a festival where two revellers died after taking super-strong ecstasy tablets have told how security couldn’t have been any tighter.

Luke Betts, organiser of Mutiny Festival, and Neil Roberts, the event’s operations manager, both stood by the running of this year’s show.

Pictured is: (middle) Mutiny Festival organiser Luke Betts and (right) Neil Roberts, operations manager at Mutiny Festival.''Picture: Sarah Standing (180828-8449)

Pictured is: (middle) Mutiny Festival organiser Luke Betts and (right) Neil Roberts, operations manager at Mutiny Festival.''Picture: Sarah Standing (180828-8449)

The event was cancelled after the first day following the deaths of Georgia Jones, 18, and Tommy Cowan, 20, both from Havant. The pair both overdosed on double-strength MDMA.

The festival chiefs gave evidence at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court during the final day of the inquest into Georgia’s death.

A visibly shaken Mr Betts told the court he had pumped in ‘well over £100,000’ on providing ‘the best security’ for the two-day music spectacle, which included music mega stars Dizzee Rascal and Craig David among its headliners.

Mr Betts said: ‘I believe that security measures put in place at Mutiny were of excellent standards to combat drugs coming into the site from customers.’

About 750 people were employed as staff on the site, which included 193 security personnel positioned at various points – more than the 170 required to man the gates and festival grounds. 

Mr Roberts said security plans had been drawn up ‘months in advance’ in conjunction with police and other agency partners.

The 52-year-old – who has organised some of the UK’s top festivals – said Mutiny’s plans had been tested and ‘heavily scrutinised’ in the run-up to the show.

Revellers were split into three queues for 16 and 17-year-olds, over-18s and VIPs, all of whom had their bags searched for drugs, with sniffer dogs also in operation at the gates.

On top of this, the festival ground, in King George V playing field, Cosham, was surrounded by a ‘formidable’ 3.2m metal fence to prevent people sneaking in, as well as amnesty bins for those to dispose of drugs before entering Mutiny, he said.

But the court had previously heard staff’s search powers were limited, with security officers unable to conduct strip or cavity searches. 

Coroner David Horsley pressed the pair on whether stringent drug searches at the gates also applied to VIPs, artists and staff.

Mr Betts claimed checks were thorough, which included searches of artists’ cars, and said: ‘Everyone was treated the same. 

‘We check cars and tour buses – although we didn’t have any of these this year.

‘I have a really good relationship with some of the biggest agents and artists in the world. These are super credible global players.’

He added: ‘I stand by police and security. I think that police and security did an excellent job.’

The inquest into the death of Mr Cowan is due to begin tomorrow.