Monday 18 December 2017

VIDEO: British police not to take action over children cage fighting

Alex Diaz

Police will take no action against the organisers of "barbaric" cage fighting involving children as young as eight, it was confirmed today.

Concerns were raised about whether two boys were put at risk by taking part in a bout at Greenlands Labour Club in Preston , in front of a 250-strong adult audience.

But a spokesman for Lancashire Police said today the force had "looked into this matter fully and there are no issues for us to pursue".

Earlier Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the event as "barbaric" and expressed shock at an apparent lack of restrictions on the activity.

A video of the bout posted on the internet shows the youngsters fighting in a cage without protective padding or headgear and receiving medical attention.

"Getting more young people doing sport is great but I do ask myself whether it really does have to be in a cage," Mr Hunt told the BBC.

"It just feels to me, it feels very barbaric and I know there are concerns about children that young doing a sport like that.

"I think if adults choose to do it, that's one thing ... I suppose I do share some of the shock that I think many of your viewers will feel."

Asked whether he was surprised to hear there were no restrictions on children appearing in such an environment, he replied: "I am surprised to hear that.

"We don't want to discourage children from doing sport, and particularly young boys with all the social problems that we were thinking about in the summer.

"We have to recognise that sport has a very, very important role but I think with this particular sport, I think some people will ask some questions."

His comments echo concerns raised by a children's charity which branded the fight "disturbing" and warned parents against allowing youngsters to take part in cage fighting while they are developing.

Lancashire police looked into "whether there were issues surrounding the safety of children" in the fight on September 10.

Club owner Michelle Anderson defended her decision to stage the event, and Nick Hartley, the father of one of the boys, told the BBC his son was not at risk of harm.

Mr Hartley said: "He loves the sport. It's not one bit dangerous, it's a controlled sport. He likes to do it. He's never forced to do it, he wants to do it, so leave him to do it.

"He'll never get hurt, it's a controlled sport, he could never get hurt.

"Until he gets a bit older and he starts doing physical contact, kicking and punching, then maybe, but at his age it's wrestling, like grappling."

Ms Anderson said: "The children were not doing cage fighting, they were just grappling. There was no punching, kicking or striking.

"The event was perfectly legal. There was only one fight for kids, which was a demonstration fight. The other fights were for adults."

The 39-year-old, who has run Greenlands Labour Club for the last six years and holds boxing nights there, added: "If you criticise this, then you've got to ask yourself if it's all right for kids to do boxing or judo."

A spokesman for Sharefight, the company commissioned to video the event, said the video had been online for two weeks without complaint but was taken down last night "out of respect" for parents and others who had shown concern.

He added that the event took place in a "safe environment" and under strict conditions.

He said: "What took place was safer than what happens in judo clubs and rugby training grounds up and down the country.

"People are reacting to the negative stereotype around cage-fighting and the setting within a cage, but a cage makes it safer for the participant because it stops them falling from the ring.

"The event involving the children was submission wrestling. Contact between the participants was restricted at all times.

"I would liken it to a game of chess, it's about outsmarting your opponent rather than overcoming them."

Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the NSPCC, said: "We would strongly discourage parents from letting their children take part in this kind of fighting.

"It's quite disturbing that some of those involved in the bouts were as young as eight, an age when they are still developing, physically and mentally.

"The organisers of these activities should think very carefully before allowing children to be involved when they are egged on to inflict violence."

A British Medical Association spokeswoman said: "Sports such as boxing and cage fighting are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control.

"But many other sports such as athletics, swimming, judo and football require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury."

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