Licensing triumph for Fenland kebab shop as campaigner Victoria Gillick meets her match
ALMOST 30 years after Victoria Gillick fought through the House of Lords to halt the provision of contraception to teenage girls, the ruthless campaigner appears to have finally met her match - her local kebab shop.
The mother-of-ten, from Wisbech, was left furious yesterday when councillors ignored her seven-month “dossier of disturbance” and granted a Fenland takeaway the right to expand its alcohol licence.
Mrs Gillick began her campaign to stop prescribed contraception to under-16s without parental consent in 1980 - securing a landmark ruling from the House of Lords in 1985.
But her local kebab shop proved more of a problem - as councillors granted an application to make alcohol more readily available from Best Kebab, in Nene Quay, Wisbech.
Eagle-eyed Mrs Gillick had spent more than 50 nights sleeping in an unheated studio in her home opposite the shop, keeping watch and detailing a catalogue of late-night disturbances.
But shop owner Jack Dennis was left celebrating after Fenland District Council’s Licensing Committee agreed with his barrister’s claim that Mrs Gillick could not object as her house was not in the “vicinity”.
Mrs Gillick, who lives around 170 metres from the takeaway, said: “I’m absolutely furious. All that evidence I had collected, it was for nothing. They are going to make our lives infinitely worse now.
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“I wasn’t allowed to say anything, I was silenced. What is the purpose of a local authority licensing committee if it does not actually stand up for local people?
“Talk about a democratic deficit - just because they were frightened by some barrister from Bournemouth. He used legal argument and he frightened them with it.”
In a bizarre site visit yesterday, councillors, legal teams and both parties filed into the kebab shop and then Mrs Gillick’s home - even pacing the steps between the properties as the argument over the “vicinity” loophole raged.
After considering the case for around half an hour, the licensing committee, chaired by Councillor Michael Humphrey, said it was a “finely balanced” decision but Mrs Gillick did not live within the vicinity. Her seven-month dossier of disturbance was therefore “invalid”.
Mrs Gillick claimed that she was originally asked to keep a log of the disturbances by police and council representatives at a Wisbech and District Community Forum last year.
“I really hit the roof afterwards,” she said. “I was very angry because this was so unfair; so unjust; not to allow somebody to speak when the council themselves had asked me to monitor the situation.
“I’m angry and shocked that the council have treated me in this way - asking me to do their work for them and then dumping on me at the end. Why?”
Shop owner Mr Dennis and manager Mehdi Ramzi promised that they cause “absolutely no trouble in Wisbech”. The businessmen said a Turkish newspaper had contacted them and were hoping to publicise their licensing victory.
Mr Dennis said: “We are a family-run business. In my whole history I have never had anything like this with one of my shops. She (Mrs Gillick) described us as a honey-pot for criminals. I have never heard anything like that in my life.
“After the meeting she was shouting and she was very angry. It was like an explosion.”
Best Kebab won the right to extend the hours of alcohol sale past 2am and remove conditions which restricted them from serving it to customers who did not purchase food.