Mid-Sussex District Council have opened an investigation into the Church of Scientology after Scientology Business revealed they failed to notify the local authority of their upcoming IAS event, due to take place 3rd – 5th November 2023.
According to their Premises Licence, Scientology are permitted to hold gatherings of up to 7,000 people at their East Grinstead headquarters on specific conditions, one of which is to provide the local authority at least 6 weeks’ notice of upcoming events. Last week, we revealed Scientology had failed to give Mid-Sussex District Council this notice, despite advertising what they are calling “the greatest gathering of Scientologists” taking place on the weekend of 3rd – 5th November 2023.
After submitting a Freedom of Information Act request which uncovered Scientology’s slip up, we wrote to the Licensing department of Mid Sussex District Council to inform them the Church were in fact planning to host an event at their Saint Hill property, where thousands of Scientologists are expected to gather to hear reclusive leader David Miscavige speak.
Breaching any conditions listed on a premises licence is considered a serious offence in the United Kingdom that could lead to a maximum fine of £20,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment. It could also lead to a review of the licence which may result in revocation, suspension or restriction of the activities permitted on the premises.
Today, we received a response to our complaint in which a Senior Licensing Officer confirmed the Council are now conducting an investigation into the allegations.
Although the breach is unlikely to result in the revocation of Scientology’s premises licence or the cancellation of the event, this will indeed be considered a “major flap” for the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) and we are looking forward to reporting on the outcome of the investigation in due course.
The IAS (International Association of Scientologists) event is currently due to take place on 3rd – 5th November and has been widely promoted to Scientologists across the globe. The event will see leader David Miscavige, who is currently evading process servers in the United States in human trafficking and harassment lawsuits, take to the stage to address parishioners on recent Scientology activities. A protest has been organised in response to the gathering, which will take place outside the gates of Saint Hill throughout the three day event. Those wishing to take part can register to attend, or join the live stream online.
You can read our complaint to Mid-Sussex District Council in full below
Dear Mid-Sussex Licensing team,
Following a conversation with the licensing officer over the phone, and a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted, the Church of Scientology appear to be in breach of their Premises Licence for their property at Saint Hill near East Grinstead.
A condition of the licence requires them to notify the authorities 6 weeks before holding an event, which they have not done, despite planning to host thousands of parishioners at an event they are calling “the greatest gathering of Scientologists” on 3rd – 5th November 2023.
They have begun to construct a temporary structure on the property to host the event, and have promoted it widely internally and online.
Under the Licensing Act, breaching the conditions listed on a premises licence is considered a “serious offence” that could result in a £20,000 fine and/or six months’ imprisonment.
With Scientology’s reputation, it is a grave concern of mine that they are not operating within the conditions of their licence – and indicates a lack of due regard for the rule of law and the authority of Mid Sussex District Council.
Please could you confirm this is being investigated? With lawsuits pending in the United States against the church and its leader David Miscavige that allege child trafficking, harassment and intimidation, it concerns me that they would be allowed to continue with an event despite failing to inform the authorities of the health and safety plans required to protect children and the local community.
Alexander Barnes-RossComplaint to Mid-Sussex District Council – 14th October 2023