The heartbroken mum of a Chesterfield soldier and young dad who died after a night out in the town centre is calling for action to make the area safer in memory of her son.
Christopher Henchliffe, aged 26, of Maynard Road, Chesterfield, was involved in an incident outside the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield in July this year and suffered serious head injuries.
He died in hospital more than a week later.
Now his mum, Yvonne, aged 49, also of Maynard Road, Chesterfield, says she would like to see extra safety measures brought in to stop such incidents happening again.
“The pain is unbelievable,” Yvonne said.
“We have been torn apart. There is not a word in the dictionary that describes how we feel.
“I do not want Chris’s death to be a waste. I do not want anybody else to go through what we have had to go through as a family. ”
Mr Henchliffe, who has a five-year-old son called Tyler, attended Parkside Community School in Chesterfield and served with the Yorkshire Regiment in Afghanistan.
Yvonne, who has been unable to work since her son’s death, believes pubs and clubs in Chesterfield should not be allowed to stay open until all hours of the morning in a bid to stop alcohol-related violence.
“If pubs and clubs were to close at 2am it would allow the police to concentrate on one area rather than being spread out up to the hours of 6am,” Yvonne told the Derbyshire Times.
Sergeant Nick Booth, from the licensing department at Chesterfield police station, said the force is looking at ways to improve the safety of the night time economy.
“Following the tragic event in July we are working closely with establishments in the town centre to review and improve working practises with a view to improving safety throughout the pubs and bars in town,” Sgt Booth said.
“Each individual premise has its own premises licence which contains details of conditions relating to the venue agreed by the council during their licensing application. These detail the operating hours in relation to alcohol sales and vary between each premise.
“Many venues can currently serve alcohol until the early hours of the morning but there is an expectation that they all run their establishments in a safe manner and look to address crime and disorder issues. If they do not we apply to the council for a review of their licence.
“We will continue to work closely with all venues in the town centre and the Pubwatch scheme, to make Chesterfield a safe place for those who live in, work in and visit our town.”
Councillor John Burrows, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “My thoughts and sympathies are with the family of Chris Henchliffe. I am personally happy to meet them and other lead petitioners to discuss their thoughts and concerns and look at the issues they wish to address.
“The licensing powers we have require us to consider each application individually. We are not allowed to impose pre-determined licensing opening hours without considering the merits of each application.
“Where there are issues with a particular premises there is the option for the council, the police or any individual to seek a review of their licence. There have been several examples in recent years where this has happened and the council has taken a hard line to amend, suspend or revoke a licence where there is evidence of breaches of licence conditions or illegal acts.
“Our existing Cumulative Impact Zone policy effectively prevents any increase in the numbers of licensed premises in Chesterfield town centre unless an applicant can clearly demonstrate how they can operate without an impact on public safety. We also use planning permission conditions to provide controls on opening hours.
“We continue to work closely with the police and other partners on such issues and meet regularly to consider all the options open to us to ensure that people can go out and have peaceful and enjoyable night in the town.”
One of the people in support of Yvonne’s calls for action is Chesterfield alcohol awareness campaigner, Gary Topley, who says that ‘sober hot spots’ - places where people can go to have non-alcoholic drinks and listen to music - which are currently in use in some cities across the UK - should be explored.
Mr Topley said: “They are a brilliant idea. If people want to go out but not drink alcohol they can do that and not feel left out.
“I think that ‘pre-loading’ has been a problem for a while. I have always said that it is a bad idea. People are arriving at town already drunk and that is when problems occur.
“If people are going to have a drink then do it sensibly. Have a drink and have a dance but make sure that you do it sensibly.”
Benjamin Edwards, aged 21, of Fieldview Place, Chesterfield, has been charged with the manslaughter of Mr Henchliffe. Mr Edwards is due to appear at Nottingham Crown Court in May next year. He denies the charge.
At Derby Crown Court in September, Mr Edwards was released on conditional bail. As part of his bail conditions, Mr Edwards must wear an electronic tag between the hours of 9pm and 7am and must not go into Chesterfield town centre unless he has a pre-arranged appointment with his solicitors.
Two other 24-year-old men were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and later released on police bail pending further enquiries.