Since 2013 the Met Police’s Operation Joseph, an internal inquiry under the auspices of the Directorate of Professional Standards Anti-Corruption Command, has been investigating the relationship between officers of the Westminster licensing unit and the owners of clubs, pubs and bars in Soho.
Fourteen people have been arrested so far including 43-year-old Sergeant Frank Partridge, known as the “Sheriff of Soho”, Constable Jim Sollars, a 55-year-old known as the “Gruffalo” on account of his 6ft 8″ frame, and Ryan Bishti, owner of the exclusive Cirque le Soir.
“Fun Time Frankie” was dismissed from the Met late last year on unrelated charges of fraudulently travelling first-class on trains.
Aside from claims that the officers received free hospitality at Soho’s nightspots, Partridge is said to be fond of strip clubs while Sollars loved listening to live jazz at Ronnie Scott’s, it is alleged that these officers were pressurizing venues into using security from firms TSS and Profile Protection.
Terry Neil, the head of the now defunct TSS, was believed to control around 80% of the doors in Soho. A former enforcer for the notorious Adams family with a conviction for armed robbery, Neil was particularly found of fast cars and Premier Cru Chablis.
By late 2013 those involved were aware of these allegations. Partridge was planning to take a job with Profile Protection; over the next two years insiders at TSS confirm that they lost a number of contracts to Profile. Sollars was hoping to be employed as a consultant for a leading London licensing lawyer.
Four security companies have complained to the police and journalists that they faced unfair competition from both TSS and Profile. Allegations have also been made against licensing units in Camden and Croydon.
A former TSS employee claims that Neil had been entertaining police officers at strip clubs since 2007, prior to Partridge and Sollars working for the Westminster licensing unit. Under condition of anonymity this person told BuzzFeed: “I think it’s a lot larger than just the people who have been arrested and I think it goes back a lot longer. I’ve been told that it went … incredibly high.”
A senior official for Westminster council commented: “You do have to ask whether those who were responsible for line management and professional setting of standards were asleep at the wheel or ignoring it. If they didn’t hear about it one must question what they were doing in that role.”
The investigation continues.
- Heidi Blake and Michael Gillard, “These Cops are Suspected of Taking Bribes while Patrolling Soho”, BuzzFeed, 15 September 2015 https://www.buzzfeed.com/heidiblake/these-soho-cops-are-suspected-of-taking-bribes?utm_term=.ncPxV5MAgj#.ihPX5ZWkOB
- Michael Gillard and Fiona Hamilton, “Police Arrested over Soho Scandal”, The Times, 27 February 2016
- _________ “Sheriff of Soho took Gifts from Security Boss”, The Times, 3 February 2017