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Making knife arches compulsory 'will be considered' after man stabbed to death in Walsall nightclub

Making knife arches compulsory will be considered after a man was stabbed to death in a Walsall nightclub.


Akeem Francis-Kerr, 29, died after being stabbed at Valesha's nightclub, also known locally as Colliseum, on Newport Street in the town centre just after 5am on Saturday.

Despite the efforts of medics, he was pronounced dead at around 6am while being taken to hospital.

A 39-year-old man has now been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody.

Akeem Francis-Kerr

Yesterday, Walsall Council's licensing sub-committee suspended the nightclub's licence with immediate effect for a period of 28 days, pending a full review.

And the council is considering a change in rules so that knife arch metal detectors become a standard measure.

The latest murder in the town has prompted an outcry for increased security measures in nightclubs.

A Walsall Council spokesman said: “The council is saddened to hear of the death of Mr Francis-Kerr and sends its heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Police at the scene in Walsall last weekend

"Knife arches can have a positive impact in preventing violent incidents in any night time economy if they are used correctly and alongside other security measures.

"There is currently nothing preventing any business installing a knife arch and asking customers to use it as a condition of entry to the premises.

"Making the provision of knife arches a condition of a premises licence is something that the authority will consider, along with any other actions that will help to keep safe both customers and businesses in the town, and protect them from those who seek to do them harm.

"The council will, of course, consult widely the licensed trade, the police and the public before considering making any changes to its policies or standard licence conditions.”

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird said he would also be asking the authority's licensing committee to reconsider bringing in a curfew for licensed premises in the town centre.

Last month, Walsall Council’s licensing committee dismissed the idea of bringing in early morning alcohol restriction orders saying they couldn’t allow criminals to dictate their policies.

A potential ban on Walsall town centre venues selling booze beyond certain times was likened to ‘something out of a dystopian novel’.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird

Members said efforts should be concentrated on tackling premises which breach licensing objectives rather than a blanket curfew on everyone.

Councillor Bird, who is still in favour of a curfew being introduced, said the decision by the committee had been "disappointing".

But he said he would be requesting that the committee review that decision and reconsider having an earlier closure for licensed premises.

He also welcomed the decision to suspend the nightclub's licence, saying police had made the request on the grounds that the premises was "associated with both serious crime and serious disorder".

"I'm very pleased. I think it was the right thing to do," he said.

"We want people to understand our town needs to be safe and we need to work with the police to make it safe.

"It's a very serious issue. We have to get the message out we are doing our utmost to make it a safe place to be."

The killing of Akeem comes less than two months since Bailey Atkinson was fatally stabbed in the town centre.

Bailey Atkinson

The 20-year-old was stabbed multiple times in the early hours of January 28 and later died of his injuries.

Two days after Akeem was stabbed to death at Valesha's nightclub, a man was taken to hospital after being attacked with a machete in Pool Street, Walsall.

Responding to the violence, Councillor Bird said: "We have to get to the root cause of why this is happening.

"Obviously, that is a police matter.

"I have to pay tribute to the police, in particular Chief Superintendent Phil Dolby who believes in community policing. We have someone who is doing his utmost to ensure community safety."

Chief Supt Dolby, of West Midlands Police, said patrols had been stepped up in the wake of Akeem's murder.

When asked about the use of knife arches in nightclubs, Chief Supt Dolby recently said: "Anything that helps keep people safe can only be a good thing.

"The decisions around the licensing and what happens within it is a matter for the local authority, but we work with them around this."

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