Women's safety campaigners say trouble-hit Southsea pub the Duke of Devonshire should lose its licence

CAMPAIGNERS for women’s safety have called for a Southsea pub’s licence to be removed as an example of the need that ‘more is done to protect women and girls in public spaces’.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 6:43 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 6:53 pm
The Duke of Devonshire in Albert Road Picture: Chris Moorhouse (100421-15)

On Friday a hearing will decide whether the Duke of Devonshire in Albert Road can keep its licence.

Hampshire police called a hearing at the beginning of the month after a series of incidents, including a mass brawl, before Portsmouth City Council agreed to temporarily suspend the Duke of Devonshire's licence.

On Friday it will make a final decision on whether to allow the pub to keep its licence although one councillor said she was 'extremely concerned' at the prospect that it may not be removed.

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The review was called by police after two 'serious' incidents at the pub were reported at the end of last month.

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In one of them, it was alleged that a 17-year-old girl was served alcohol and groped and forced to take a substance thought to be cocaine.

These claims have, however, been disputed by the pub's solicitor Jon Wallsgrove, who said that CCTV footage ‘told a different story’.

He did, however, accept concerns around a mass brawl which took place the following day after a woman was allegedly sexually assaulted.

Five men were arrested, but Mr Wallsgrove said it was a ‘freakish, isolated’ incident.

Speaking after the review was called, pub landlord Tom Yaman said they were working with police and the council to improve controls.

On August 5, an emergency meeting of a council licensing sub-committee agreed to suspend the pub's licence to allow a raft of new measures aimed at preventing future issues to be introduced.

The pub has since been allowed to re-open but a final decision on its licence will be made on Friday.

Councillor Kirsty Mellor has called on the sub-committee to back the original police recommendation to remove it.

'In this case a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and was asked to leave the premises, she was consequently followed out of the premises by the perpetrator,' she said. 'She has been failed by the proprietor.

'Furthermore, the following day another woman was sexually assaulted on the premises of the Duke of Devonshire pub with this incident resulting in a mass brawl, again the woman was failed.

'I share the concerns raised by the police about the operation and management of the premises and I am extremely troubled about how these incidents have seriously undermined the licensing objectives.

'There is no room for consideration, this committee must suspend the premises licence with the intention to fully revoke it.'

Her view has been backed by Dr Shonagh Dillon, the CEO of Aurora New Dawn, a charity that supports the victims of sexual assault.

'Sexual harassment is a daily experience for women and girls and we echo and stand with Cllr Mellor and her comments within her statement,' she said.

'It is essential that more is done to protect women and girls in public spaces as well as from the violence and abuse they very frequently experience within the home, the one major way we can start doing that is to hold men to account for this behaviour and to ambitiously advocate for systematic change in a society that is rife with misogyny and male violence.'

Cllr Mellor has also criticised the all-male make-up of the sub-committee established to consider the licence review which she said was not appropriate given some of the allegations made.

A council spokesman said female councillors were invited to join it but that none was available to make Friday's meeting.

The sub-committee will have the power to revoke the licence, keep it as is or modify it with new conditions or the removal of existing permissions.

The pub's owner, EI Group, said a 'proportionate' response would be the introduction of new controls, including a requirement for bouncers on busier days and extra staff training.