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Nightclub Premises Licence revoked following murder inside venue Published Date: 12/04/2023

Valesha’s Nightclub in Walsall has had its premises licence revoked following the murder of Akeem Francis-Kerr inside the venue shortly after 5am on 11 March 2023.

The incident triggered a summary review application by West Midlands Police under section 53A of the Licensing Act 2003.

The licence was suspended as an interim step pending the full review hearing which was heard before Walsall Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee on 4 April 2023. The police pointed to failures in the operation of the venue on the fatal night, a track record of incidents at the club both under the current and previous management, and its association with gang members. The police also questioned the legal capacity of “Capital Leisure” to hold the licence given this was merely a trading name used by a family business that included a Councillor who is also a member of Walsall’s licensing committee. In its decision the sub-committee pointed to the lack of supervision of the tenants, who had been operating the venue since December 2022, by the licence holder.

According to a report by Francis Taylor Building, the sub-committee’s decision letter concluded:

“We find that due to agreed failings of management a young person died in circumstances that could have been avoided and that his death involved a bladed instrument. This is a cause of great sadness and of great concern. We have carefully listened to all the submissions of West Midlands Police and the premises licence holder – we found both sides engaging and compelling. We do not apologise for the time taken to reach our determination as the parties have given us much to think about. In these circumstances we feel compelled to consider revocation. We have discussed and considered other options including suspension, the reduction of trading hours and the amendments of conditions. Given the seriousness of the incident and the agreed failings of the people with operational control of the premises on the night of the incident we unanimously find that revocation is the most appropriate and proportionate response.”

In addition to revoking the licence, the sub-committee continued the interim suspension of the licence pending any appeal. During the hearing the licence holder surrendered the separate Sexual Entertainment Venue licence that permitted the first floor to operate as a table-dancing club. 
Gary Grant acted for West Midlands Police (instructed by Tim Woodward of WMP’s Legal Service), James Rankin acted for the licence holder (instructed by Philip Williams of Blackfords), and Leo Charalambides was legal advisor to the licensing sub-committee.