It’s a Saturday night in Doncaster. The pubs on Silver Street are busy with the night’s revellers making most of their weekend.
The music drifts out into the street from the many venues, as the men and women make their way in and out of the bars, past the door staff.
It is widely regarded as a great night out, and it attracts visitors from all over Yorkshire.
But while most of those out for the evening will go home with a smile on their faces, police figures reveal this is the street with the worst record for violence in the borough when night falls. Pub bosses say there are fewer crimes in the area than 10 years ago.
But violence was brought into sharp focus last year when a man died after an alleged incident in a bar on Silver Street.
Copley Junior school teacher Lewis Siddall was found dead at his home in Skellow, Doncaster, on Friday August 14 last year after he was allegedly assaulted at VDKA bar in Silver Street in Doncaster town centre at around 11pm the night before.
A man has been charged with his manslaughter and is due to appear before Doncaster magistrates next month.
It was also the focus of another police investigation just before Christmas, when two people were arrested after a woman was attacked and suffered serious facial injuries on December 23 in a smoking area outside a bar, La Barraca on Silver Street.
Police are concerned about the number of late bars in that part of Doncaster town centre, and have now revealed figures showing the extent of the problem of violent crime.
They show more than a third of the town centre incidents in the eight months to Christmas happened on Silver Street.
The figures, from the South Yorkshire Police Crime Management System, show 109 violent crimes were recorded on Silver Street between 6pm and 6am. Of those, 104 happened between 9pm and 6pm.
It is more than double the figure for the next highest street, 41, at Lazarus Court. Most of the incidents are recorded in an area which is now know as Doncaster town centre’s cumulative impact zone - streets made up of Silver Street, Lazarus Court, Hallgate, Priory Walk and High Street. The zone was set up to limit the expansion of pubs and clubs in an area where officers are concerned about crime and antisocial behaviour.
Those five streets saw 208 violent crimes between April 24 and December 21 last year between 6pm and 6am. That compares to 96 on the other 26 streets which police class as being in the town centre.
Most of the incidents were assaults.
Assaults classed as actual bodily harm make up 98 of the incidents, ahead of 35 cases of common assault.
There were 25 cases of grievous bodily harm – or wounding – and 25 public order incidents. There were seven recorded sexual assaults and four robberies.
Silver Street also saw the most drunk and disorderly arrests, with 68, compared to 36 on Hallgate, 15 on Lazarus Court, seven on High Street and two on Priory Walk.
The man in charge of community safety in Doncaster admits there is an issue with drink-fuelled violence in the early hours of morning in parts of the town centre at weekends, but stressed most people go out and enjoy themselves without any problems.
Coun Chris McGuinness, Doncaster Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Violent crime is totally unacceptable and the police will take action against offenders.
“Unfortunately like other major towns and cities across the UK, Doncaster does see some increased levels of aggression associated with alcohol use, particularly in the early hours of the morning at weekends. It is one of the reasons why a Cumulative Impact Zone has been put in place around the Silver Street area.
“However, it is also important to remember that thousands of people go out in Doncaster every week, enjoying themselves responsibly and without experiencing any problems. We work closely with South Yorkshire Police and other agencies to reduce the impact of violent crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre and other parts of the borough. Locations that are identified, where violent crime and anti-social behaviour is more prevalent, are used by the Police and wider partnership to target our resources and prevention activities. This may include additional high visibility patrols, monitored CCTV and Town Centre ‘Street Angels’ who educate the public about the effects of drinking alcohol.
“The successful management of the night time economy in the Town Centre is key to keeping the public safe and encouraging safe levels of drinking.”
Supt Neil Thomas said: “We are working closely with Doncaster Council to address the issue of drunk and disorderly incidents in the town centre.
“Silver Street has a high number of bars and takeaways so at night there is always an increase in the number of people in a concentrated area.
“One of the problems with this street in particular, is that there isn’t a proportionate amount of space on the pavement immediately outside the bars so large numbers of people are congregating in a confined space.
“As well as looking at the geography of the vicinity, we are working alongside the council to ensure that takeaways in the area are operating within the terms of their licence and are closing at the agreed times. Where this is not happening, we will take robust action.
“Our message to people who are going out into the town centre, is that we want you to enjoy a night out and we want you to be safe.
“It is up to people to act responsibly and anyone who behaves outside the boundaries of the law will be dealt with.”
Sharon Clark-Woodhouse, chairman of Doncaster Pubwatch, defended Silver Street. She said: “Doncaster Pubwatch work hard to create and promote Doncaster as a safe and welcoming town. Silver Street is a vibrant street frequented by many people, it has been a place for people to enjoy themselves for centuries, after all The St Leger tavern, Biscuit Billy’s, has recently celebrated it’s 200th year !
“Silver Street and its many venues employ a lot of local people and is a valuable part of the night time economy. Anything that does happen on the street is down to the people of Doncaster. If you insult the street then all you are really doing is insulting them.
“With the 24 hour drinking policy the Government brought in years ago, it altered people’s drinking habits. Customers come out later and later as is the norm in cities which has trickled down over the years changing the habits of Doncaster people. Hence why many venues now open late till 4/5/6am on weekends.
“Gone are the days when customers would come out early at 7pm, today it’s more like 10pm. Doncaster strives for city status and we believe we as a town should adopt the same attitude as a city and not that of a small village closing everything for midnight!”
“We as a pubwatch do not agree with the cumulative impact zone. We do not believe it works, and some of the police officers on the ground, operating the streets don’t either.
“Our members invest in the town and provide a safe and enjoyable night out for thousands of people. Most people are law abiding citizens and it is because of this and the hard work of all organisations, including Doncaster Pubwatch, the police, licensing and street pastors, incidents of violent crime have fallen dramatically over the last 10 years ensuring Doncaster is a safe and enjoyable place enjoyed by tens of thousands of people.”