Form 696 is a risk assessment form which the London Metropolitan Police requests promoters and licensees of events to complete and submit 14 days in advance of an event in 21 London boroughs. Non compliance with this may result in police opposition to event licences being granted. This form has become controversial due to its stipulation that names, stage names, private addresses, and phone numbers of all promoters, DJs and artists be listed. The form also asks for a description of the style of music to be performed and the target audience. The original form asked for details of ethnic groups likely to attend the performance, but that version was revised to omit those parameters in December 2008. In November 2017, the Met Police announced that following a review of how the form was being used it was to be scrapped.
Feargal Sharkey, Head of UK Music and former lead singer of The Undertones, gave evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in November 2008 stating that "We learned that the Metropolitan Police, in conjunction with an organization called London Councils - a representative body for all London borough - at the end of last year jointly wrote to all 33 local London boroughs recommending that they insert some particular wording into their local licensing policy statements." He added that the London Borough of Hillingdon in west London, "tries to make a direct connection not only between crime and disorder and live music, but most astonishingly - I'm still knocked over in disbelief - between live music and the prevention of terrorism." Sharkey stated that he would be seeking a Judicial Review on the use of the form and had complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the targeting of musical styles favoured by black and Asian teenagers. According to Sharkey an afternoon school charity concert in a public park had been cancelled because organisers could not supply the details of the young performers.
In a statement on their web site, The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters CEO Patrick Rackow stated "...the imposition of Form 696 on live music is likely to discourage the existence and growth of live music. Music has long been a positive form of free expression, for people from all walks of life to create and enjoy. This form appears to single out certain genres of music and ethnic audiences and therefore the Academy cannot support it.”
In December 2008, Mike Howlett, Chairman of the Music Producers Guild (UK), wrote to the General Secretary of the Musicians Union "In keeping with the Musicians Union and UK Music, we feel this is a gross infringement of civil liberties and a form of racial discrimination. We also feel that this will deter the staging of live musical events, stifle free expression and possibly penalise certain genres of music and ethnic audiences. Our members are horrified that this legislation, introduced in 2006, is being enforced under the guise of public law and order. We see no reason why artists and/or venue owners and managers should be forced to comply."
David Isles, Detective Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice unit has stated that Form 696 is not designed to stop people having a good time. The Metropolitan Police web site describes the form as a Promotion Event risk assessment form.
Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin stated that the original form, with its questions relating to audience ethnicity "was removed just because I don't think it added any value to the form.... We take account of where the event is playing, what other events might be playing nearby, the type of music that's being played, and whether there have been problems before. We've had quite a few of what I consider 'higher risk events', where there may be some problems - so we recommend additional searching processes and additional security to help manage the event safely." "It's not about being risk averse, it's about managing the risk," he said. "If you're a publican and you are just having some performers to entertain your regular customers, you won't be expected to do a risk assessment. It's for when the performance is being put on to draw people in. We will never assess somebody just on the genre of music they are performing. There is a whole raft of factors that are taken into account."
In September 2009, the Metropolitan Police announced "that venues would no longer be asked for details of the music style. A requirement to provide the telephone number of the performing artist will also be dropped and an independent "scrutiny panel" will be set up to ensure that the form is not misused." Feargal Sharkey described this as an "exercise in semantics" and called for the form to be completely scrapped. He added that "it was clear that the altered version continued to target musicians from ethnic minorities and he objected strongly to a question which asks about the 'make-up of the patrons'."
Form 696 scrapped
On 10 November 2017, it was announced that the use of Form 696 was to be discontinued in London following a review called for by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Reporting the decision, the BBC noted, "The Met denied the form had been used to target particular genres but said it had decided to drop it after a fall in 'serious incidents' at music events"; however, the BBC also reported that a Freedom of Information request earlier in 2017 had discovered that 16 other English police forces were using forms similar to Form 696.
- "Police Vet Live Music, DJs for 'terror risk': Locking Down Garage...and RnB, Basement" (Web). The Register. Situation Publishing Ltd (UK). 11 November 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2009.
- "Form 696 - Promotion / Event Risk Assessment" (MS Word). Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
- "Are police using 'risk-assessment' form 696 to close garage clubs?". The Guardian. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "Form 696: 'Racist police form' to be scrapped in London". BBC NEWS. 10 November 2017.
- "Statement of Licensing Policy" (PDF). London Borough of Hillingdon. January 2008. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
- "Sharkey Warns MPs On Policing Of Concert Licensing". Billboard. 11 November 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "How Form 696 could pull the plug on the capital's music scene". The Independent. 21 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Jon McLure Protests Form 696 - Musicians Set Up Petition". Clash Music. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "Metropolitan Police Form 696". British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
- Howlett, Mike (12 December 2008). "MPG letter of Support towards MU to stop form 696". Music Producers Guild. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
- "Form 696 fury". BBC 6 Music News. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- "Metropolitan Police Service - Events". Metropolitan Police Service. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- "Met police bows to pressure to drop question on 'racist' form 696". The Guardian. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Nerssessian, Joe (10 November 2017). "Form 696: Police scrap 'racist' risk assessment for MCs and DJs". www.independent.co.uk. The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2017.