A NORTH-EAST nightclub is again embroiled in controversy following claims that a group of military policemen were sworn at and refused entry for being in the Armed Forces – two years after a similar incident.

An investigation is under way at Inside Out, in Darlington, after soldiers based at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, said they were turned away because door staff mistook them for troublemakers.

Last night, pub management denied the club operated a “no Armed Forces” policy and insisted the venue was no different to others in the town.

The club was drawn into a similar row two years ago, when marine commando Stephen McCabe was told he was not welcome.

In the most recent incident, on Monday, September 10, six members of the Royal Military Police were stopped by door staff, who asked for identification, before refusing them entry once it became clear they were in the Armed Forces.

It is claimed the group were sworn at by door staff before being left with no choice but to leave.

Corporal Marc Dehavilland, who is due for deployment to Afghanistan with the rest of his unit next month, said he had experienced similar problems elsewhere in Darlington on previous nights.

He expressed anger at the group’s treatment, saying Armed Forces personnel receive a warmer welcome at other towns and cities in the region. Cpl Dehavilland, 26, said: “When the first member of our group showed ID to the door staff, the door man immediately said ‘are you all Army?’, to which we replied yes.

“Once he heard this, he told us we were not getting in and told us to go away.

“Stunned, we asked for a reason, and he went on to explain that they no longer let anyone in the military into their establishment, as we are apparently all trouble-makers.

“We then explained we were all military policemen and the last thing we do is cause trouble.

If anything, we are the ones who stop other soldiers causing trouble.

“This had no luck, however, as the main doorman started to become aggressive and refused our request to speak to the manager.”

Darlington is a popular choice of night out for troops at Catterick Garrison, 15 miles away.

Cpl Dehavilland, who said the incident had put him off coming back to the town for a night out, said: “This is not only a sign of disrespect, considering the job that we do, not to mention the fact that we are only a few weeks from deploying to Afghanistan, but an absolute outrage in the way we were treated and spoken to, when all we wanted to do was go out for a few drinks.”

The Northern Echo understands door security at Inside Out is operated by Tynesidebased Phoenix Security. No one from the company was available for comment yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the Ladhar Group, which runs Inside Out, said there was no blanket ban on forces personnel at the venue.

She confirmed an investigation was under way and said: “Initial inquiries confirm no complaint has been made to the premises or the authorities in respect of this alleged incident.

“Inside Out is a popular late-night venue and operates strict door policies to ensure that the licensing laws are upheld.

“Those policies seek to prevent crime and disorder and public nuisance, promote public safety and protect children from harm.

“The policies are in no way discriminatory and are approved by the police and the licensing authority, with whom the operators have a good working relationship.”