Chelmsford venue to stay open despite assault

A “ferocious and sustained act of criminal physical violence” that could have killed a man came after a string of serious allegations centred around a Chelmsford nightclub, a licensing committee has heard.

Two men have been arrested and arrangements are being made to voluntarily interview a third in connection with the incident that left a man with serious facial injuries.

Councillors on Chelmsford City Council’s licensing committee had open to them an option to revoke Bassment’s licence, but instead agreed that 20 temporary conditions should be made permanent.

These include ensuring glasses and bottles cannot be taken away, CCTV covers all public areas including all entrances and exits and all areas where the sale of alcohol takes place, and a first aider with a qualification in Emergency First Aid shall be on the premises after 10pm each day.

The review came after a fight that took place outside the Wells Street venue just after 3am on Saturday February 25 that could have resulted in the male victim being killed had it not been a passer-by stepping in, the committee was told.

The “abject failure” of the door supervisors employed at the licensed premises to intervene, attempt to render first aid, or even call the emergency services, was described as “appalling” by chairperson of the licensing committee Councillor Linda Mascott.

She said in her report: “The incident involved the carrying out, by disruptive and intoxicated patrons who had been ejected from the licensed premises, of a ferocious and sustained act of criminal physical violence.

“This had resulted in the victim suffering serious injuries which required hospitalisation. The abject failure of the door supervisors employed at the licensed premises to intervene, attempt to render first aid, or at the very least call the emergency services, was appalling. It is reasonable to assume that, were it not for the intervention of a passer-by, further serious injuries would have been sustained by the victim which could have resulted in a fatality.”

However the hearing also revealed a string of complaints relating to the actions of door supervisors in May 2022, September 2022, November 2022, and December 2022.

In December 2022 a victim alleged they had been violently ejected from the venue, the same month a victim alleged he had been strangled by a door supervisor. In November an assault at the venue was reported. In September 2022 a female victim alleged she was sexually assaulted by a door supervisor and then ejected.

In May 2022 a victim alleged the use of excessive force by a door supervisor and a review of CCTV shows the door supervisor taking the victim around his neck and chest area with his left forearm and forced the suspect backwards without supporting him. In April 2022 a victim alleged he had been assaulted by door staff.

Councillor Mascott said it appears no written notice of these incidents was given to the licence-holder. Furthermore, it would appear that no formal police action, including prosecutions, resulted from these incidents.

Although the committee noted in an earlier hearing that the licence-holder has since dismissed the door supervisors and is now in the process of using an alternative company to provide door supervisors, the incident was of such a “serious and disturbing nature” that the committee had cause for concern regarding the licence-holder’s judgment and management and control of the premises.

However, it has ultimately decided that 20 conditions are sufficient.

In its summary the committee said: “In particular the committee has noted and given due weight to the fact that Essex Police have been in discussions with the licence holder and their representative and have confirmed to the committee that they are of the view that these 20 proposed conditions will address the failings that led to the incident which resulted in Essex Police making an application for a summary review.

“In this regard, the committee has also had regard to the guidance issued by the Secretary of State pursuant to section 182 of the 2003 Act which makes it clear that the committee is to look to the police as the main source of advice on crime and disorder matters.

“The 20 proposed conditions mirror the interim steps conditions which were imposed by the committee at the hearing on March 9 2023. These interim steps conditions have been implemented by the licence holder and Essex Police have confirmed that they are working.”

A comment from Essex Police said: “Essex Police were concerned at how an incident outside Bassment bar was dealt with by door supervisors and moved to calling for a summary review of the premises licence as an interim measure to protect the public whilst police and management discussed militating actions that could be taken.

“A man sustained serious injuries following an assault in the early hours of February 25. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident and arrangements are being made to voluntarily interview a third.

“We have been working closely with Bassment’s management and Chelmsford City Council’s licensing sub-committee who suspended Bassment Bar’s licence at a meeting on March 2.

“At an interim hearing on March 9 Bassment’s management successfully appealed the suspension of the licence and Chelmsford City Council’s licensing sub-committee agreed to re-instate the licence, imposing 20 new conditions which will allow the premises to re-open without significant risk to the public.

“A full hearing took place on March 22 and the sub-committee imposed these new conditions on the licence as a permanent feature. Our investigation into the assault continues.”

Essex Police said that of previous incidents the victim in each case was unsupportive of an investigation which meant it was difficult to progress them.

A statement added: “Essex Police have been in previous discussions with Bassment’s management regarding allegations of incidents linked to their premises.

“Investigations were carried out in connection with previously reported incidents but have been filed, pending new information coming to light, due to a lack of evidence.”

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 3.10am on Saturday February 25 with reports of an assault outside of Bassment on Wells Street in Chelmsford. An ambulance was sent to the scene and treated a man with serious facial injuries. The man was transported to hospital for treatment.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter