Chris Henchliffe’s legacy: violent crime is down in Chesterfield town centre

Chris Henchliffe.
Chris Henchliffe.

It was a crime that shocked Chesterfield.

In the summer of 2016, Chris Henchliffe – a soldier who served in Afghanistan – died after an altercation on the streets of the town during a night out.

Chris Henchliffe served in the army in the Yorkshire regiment.

Chris Henchliffe served in the army in the Yorkshire regiment.

Last year, a jury ruled the 26-year-old father was unlawfully killed by Benjamin Edwards.

Edwards, 22, who was jailed for five-and-a-half years, denied manslaughter and argued he ‘threw a punch’ at Chris on Corporation Street as he feared he was going to harm his friend.

Since the tragedy, things have changed for the better.

According to police, violent crime has decreased in Chesterfield town centre – and work is continuing to reduce it even further.

Yvonne Henchliffe. Picture by Rachel Atkins.

Yvonne Henchliffe. Picture by Rachel Atkins.

After losing her son, Yvonne Henchliffe launched a campaign to cut violence in the area – and ensure nobody else has to go through the pain she endures day in, day out.

Now, with the help of town taxi firms, Yvonne’s campaign, called Stay Cute and Dilute, is gaining pace and helping more people.

Central Cars, A Line and Door to Door have all agreed to hand out water to help people sober up on a night out.

They are also raising awareness by displaying ‘one punch can kill’ posters and offering a safe haven for people feeling troubled through the effects of alcohol.

Yvonne Henchliffe's campaign has a strong backing. Picture by Rachel Atkins.

Yvonne Henchliffe's campaign has a strong backing. Picture by Rachel Atkins.

Yvonne, who lives in Chesterfield, praised the taxi firms for helping to keep people safe.

She added: “Since Chris passed away, in Chesterfield town centre we have seen more CCTV added, regular police mobile units on the weekends and a decline in violence.

“Maintaining this good work from all parties in our town nightlife is essential.

“I would like to believe that Chris’s life has left a legacy within our town – but there is no room for complacency.

Yvonne Henchliffe with fundraiser Oliveria Meinn. Picture by Rachel Atkins.

Yvonne Henchliffe with fundraiser Oliveria Meinn. Picture by Rachel Atkins.

“Chesterfield should remain a safe town without the fear of violence on a good evening out.”

Inspector Dave Nicholls, who is in charge of the local policing unit for Chesterfield, said: “I will always support Yvonne with what she does.

“She has done a lot since Chris’s death – she has such strength and commitment.

“Her latest project with the local taxi firms is great and it’s good to see businesses coming on board like this.

“We can all make a difference if we work together.”

Insp Nicholls said there had been around a 30 per cent drop in violence in Chesterfield town centre in the year to April.

He added: “I have put extra dedicated officers on the town centre between 10pm on Saturdays and 6am on Sundays as well as every Bank Holiday Sunday and key dates around Christmas and New Year.

“We have done education and awareness around the ‘one punch can kill’ campaign.

“And I have purchased additional Pubwatch radios so we have direct contact with every venue which is member of the Pubwatch scheme and the CCTV office and Street Pastors so early intervention can be taken rather than attend after something has happened.”

Insp Nicholls wanted to get across an important message to help prevent any future tragedies.

He said: “I want people to go out and enjoy themselves – but if they find themselves in a situation, they need to stop and think about the consequences of what may happen.

“Lives can be ruined with one monent of madness.

“Walk away – it’s not worth it.”

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins added: “The Stay Cute and Dilute campaign has been very positive in getting people to consider at a certain stage of their evening out whether it is time to dilute their drinks and avoid excessive drinking.

This is being supported by many of the licensees in town and I hope that we can encourage many more of our pubs and clubs to back the campaign.

Taxi drivers giving out water to people is also an excellent addition to the initiative.

“The drop in violent crime is welcome news and is hopefully making Chesterfield a more attractive place for a night out.

“I saw from a recent visit with the police, and from shadowing them in the community, how hard they’re working to buck the national trend which has seen violent crime on the increase in other town centres.”

Chesterfield’s street pastors – who are uniformed Christians dedicated to helping keep the peace in the town centre – have also made a significant difference.

Working alongside police and paramedics, the trained volunteers visit pubs, clubs, nightclubs, foodspots and taxi outlets between the hours of 10pm on Saturdays and 3am on Sundays and befriend, support and listen to people who need help.

They also pick up glass bottles in a bid to reduce hospital admissions and remove potential weapons from the streets.

Over the past six years, Chesterfield’s street pastors have helped many hundreds of people.

Yvonne is now organising a fun-filled charity event in memory of Chris.

It will take place at the Olde House on Loundsley Green Road, Chesterfield, from noon on Sunday, August 26, and raise money for town respite service Ability and the neurocare unit at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, which cared for him before he died.

Yvonne has very fond memories of Chris.

She remembers him as a ‘wonderful and beautiful’ person who ‘always kept any atmosphere alive with his cheeky grin and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes’.

Yvonne can now take some comfort in the knowledge that her son’s death has not been in vain.