THE city’s commander has insisted the police response to a hotel bomb hoax was appropriate and any future threats would be taken just as seriously.

Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell said officers will do everything in their power to assess whether bomb threats are credible and will not think twice about shutting down the city centre again if they believed there was an imminent risk to the public.

Mrs Bell was on duty when an anonymous call was made to The Grand hotel on Sunday, September 10, claiming there was a bomb and took command of the incident.

Management at the King’s Road hotel alerted Sussex Police at 4.30pm and evacuated the building.

Guests and staff took shelter for around five hours at the nearby Hilton Metropole while a square mile of the city centre was shut off, including the A259 in both directions from the aquarium roundabout to the i360, part of West Street and car parks.

Officers trawled the hotel for any evidence of a bomb but nothing suspicious was found so the incident was classed as a hoax. Both police and the hotel management insisted the threat had to be taken seriously.

Speaking to The Argus, Mrs Bell said: “I was in Crowhurst Road [police station] and was informed an evacuation was underway so I came down to the city centre and took command. When we get a call like that we will do everything in our power to understand whether the threat is credible or viable effectively and this may be when events are moving quite quickly.

“We recognise it can cause major disruption to the city. Public safety is key and unfortunately the outcome of that is that it will stop people moving around for a while.

“In this case we were very fortunate to have specialised search advisers on duty and officers who were familiar with the layout of The Grand. Because of this we had a high degree of confidence that there were no issues and that it was safe to allow guests back inside.”

She said the public response to the operation had been very positive and she had even been contacted directly on Twitter by someone coming forward with information, adding: “Some people might have said it was an over reaction but most have said it was exactly what they expected the police to do.

“It’s regrettable the city was disrupted, nobody wants that to happen. But the police response was appropriate and the people affected were complimentary about the policing response.

“The Grand hotel manager was so supportive on the action we were taking. We were completely reassured the hotel was absolutely taking security and safety of guests seriously.

“They weren’t worrying about the commercial impact of the incident.”

POLICE officers are still hunting the hoaxer who forced hundreds of people to take shelter for five hours from The Grand hotel and surrounding seafront buildings.

Mrs Bell previously said a "comprehensive criminal investigation" was underway.

Officers searched the hotel thoroughly but found no evidence or any trace of a bomb.

Sussex Police said it was concerned copy cats could carry out more fake bomb threats.

Yesterday a force spokesman said the investigation was continuing but there were no developments to report.


THE number of sexual offences taking place is still too high, the city commander said.

Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell told The Argus tackling sexual offending and violence is still a priority to keep people safe.

She said the increase in the number of reports is positive because it shows victims are more confidence in coming forward but "the number of sexual offences is far higher than anybody would want to see."

She said the rise was a challenge for officers who are still needing to work more with less resource but they remained committing to investigating the cases.

A year ago this newspaper reported how a huge rise in reported sexual offences was putting police under strain and diverting attention from solving other crimes.

The former Brighton and Hove divisional commander Nev Kemp said around 300 rapes per year are now reported in Brighton in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

He said there were not enough officers to deal with cases fast enough and officers are being taken away from investigating other crimes such as burglary and theft.

In an interview with The Argus in September last year, he said: “I think if you were to speak to some of the officers they would say they are feeling really stretched.

"However, the force has recognised that and we have got something like 30 transferees coming in.

"But I think that plan is probably only good enough for the next 12 months or so.

"If it keeps increasing in the way that it has done, we are going to need to think again about the resources that we put into it.

"It’s a difficult one because we want more people to report it, but they are very labour intensive cases; there is not a single rape that we get that we don’t investigate.

"We get other crimes that we can say, we are not going to investigate that, but every rape we get reported, we put a lot into."


CHRISTMAS parties for police officers and their children are being reinstated to thank them for their hard work.

The annual gatherings for the Brighton teams were stopped in the wake of cut backs but Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell has decided to revive them this year.

She said the decision was part of a programme of officer care to recognise the demands placed on them and the stress of the job.

The move ties in with the refurbishment underway to improve John Street police station so officers have better surroundings to work in.

Mrs Bell said: "This is to show we do care and recognise their hard work. Policing is massively rewarding but it is still a challenge too. We know families and friends - who understand when officers have to work late and long hours - have a huge role to play in that. They are part of the policing family as well which is why we wanted to invite them.

"There is an increased demand on policing, officers will feel under a lot of pressure. You need to have a balance and a chance to socialise with those you work with."

Other ideas include exercise classes and reflexology.