Fringe Box



Pews Wine Bar Assault – Attacked Doorman Tells His Story

Published on: 11 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 12 Oct, 2012

Chris Smith is a young man who, when you meet him, immediately impresses you with his friendly, direct manner. He comes across as thoughtful, well mannered, honest and brave. But his life was turned upside down last December when, working as a door supervisor in Guildford, he was assaulted by a customer who thrust a broken glass into his face. He was fortunate not to have been blinded. He kindly agreed to to talk to The Guildford Dragon NEWS about the whole experience. An experience which he readily admits was, at times, horrendous.

Chris Smith now

What was it like working at Pews Wine Bar in Chapel Street? Were there many incidents?

I worked at Pews for four years. Before that I had worked at the Mandolay Hotel. All licensed premises that stay open late require door supervisors these days.

When I started at Pews it had a very different crowd, a younger and more juvenile crowd. With this came the usual inherent issues which we quashed quickly. Since then the bar has been one of, if not, the nicest bars for people of all ages to enjoy a night out. I will always choose Pews as first port of call on a night out – purely for the atmosphere it offers. I intend to celebrate my birthday there soon, in fact.

Normally, there are very few incidents. If anyone overstepped the mark, perhaps smoking where it’s not allowed, being too loud, having had one too many, they are normally very co-operative. Sometimes we had to ask girls to stop dancing on the furniture but fights were and still are very, very rare. Unheard of, in fact. If we did have to ask someone to leave, which again was rare, they were normally very obliging.

We always made a point of walking them to the door and saying, “This has happened tonight but come back next week and it will be fine.” We tried hard to avoid bad feeling and appearing officious. We did not want a barrier between us and the customers.

What actually happened in the incident?

There was a group of males aged between 25 and 35 years. They were out on a Christmas do, all wearing Christmas jumpers. They seemed to be having a good time and then I had a complaint from one of the bar staff to say that they were smashing shot glasses on the floor.

So I tried to approach the person who had been seen to do that. Initially a friend of his intercepted me and warned me that if I tried to ask him to leave I would have the whole group to deal with. A colleague helped by making sure that none of the others came over whilst I was speaking to the individual and I said to him: “Can you come to the front door with me, fella?”

He responded with a lot of foul language saying: “I am not going anywhere with you. What’s a pretty boy like you going to do about it?” And as soon as he said that he struck me twice with a pint glass. The first strike broke the glass on my forehead, and the second strike, to my left cheek and eye area, was with the broken glass. At this time I was unaware of the extent of my injuries, all I knew was that my face was bleeding heavily.

Later I learnt that he then ran off into the High Street. My colleague from Pews and another doorman from the Keep pub who had been alerted by the town’s Pubwatch radio chased him and caught him. Then the police turned up.

The Pubwatch radio alert is really good. It meant that all the emergency services turned up really quickly.

Chris Smith in A & E

So what happened then?

I was taken to hospital. I was in A&E for five and a half hours, waiting and then being cleaned up. I was then discharged and asked to return at 8.30am in the morning to have my face stitched up – there was no surgeon in at the time. So I went home for two and a half hours and then returned. It took three hours to be stitched up with a total of 35 stitches.

There had been no real pain at the time of the assault but when the wound was being inspected it was painful: they had to pull the flap of skin right open to ensure that there was no glass in there. But the most excruciating part was when they were giving me all the anaesthetic injections, about twenty of them, injected right into each part of the wounds, before they started stitching. (Chris winces with the recollection of his experience.)

What do you think about your treatment by the police?

The police were on the scene quickly and were with me from the moment I left the venue. I think one came with me in the ambulance. There were about four police officers up in A&E with me at all times. I was never left unattended because of the need for continuity of evidence. They took all my clothes for evidence. They then kindly went and got some custody suite clothing for me to wear.

They treated me very well. Throughout the past 11 months they have been understanding, compassionate and very professional. Totally dedicated to achieving justice. All of the officers involved in this case are certainly a credit to Surrey Police. I knew of a lot of police officers through working on the door and I know they were as shocked as anyone else about what had happened. I can only sing their praises. I am still receiving supportive phone calls and messages from some of the officers.

How did you feel during the trial?

I was extremely apprehensive. There was a massive weight on my shoulders, a huge burden knowing it was going to go to court. Having seen previous cases I had a fear that justice was not going to be done, that he might be acquitted or get too light a sentence; just a slap on the wrist or a suspended sentence or something.

All the way through, when I was giving my evidence, although we thought we had a very strong case, I knew that at the end of the day, it was down to a jury of twelve people, it was in their hands to decide. So even when the jury were sent to deliberate we were still kind of unsure. You see other cases won on less evidence but also lost on more. He had pleaded guilty to GBH but not guilty to GBH with intent.

How do you feel about your assailant, Colin Burtenshaw? Has he shown any remorse?

Obviously, I hate what he did to me but now justice has been done I am trying not to dwell on it. I am adapting. I don’t like him, I don’t have any time for the guy but he is now serving a heavy sentence which I think is entirely justified.

I did feel sorry for some members of his family. He has left them very, very distressed. It is not just my life he has ruined.

Has he shown any remorse?

He never said sorry. He didn’t look at me in court. But I wasn’t interested in trying to communicate. I was having an horrendous time in court myself, so were my family. I was just there to see justice done.

What do you think about the sentence?

It was a just sentence for the crime he committed.

I have this scarring for the rest of my life. He has got nine years but I don’t know how much of that he will have to serve. I am 29 now and I would like to think I have at least another 50 years to live but I will always bear these scars.

How has the injury affected you mentally and physically?

Well physically it has obviously left me with scars. I am now required to wear glasses on a more frequent basis. Mentally I am now very self conscious. It has made me extra cautious and suspicious of strangers and put the fear of God into me when I thought how close I was to losing an eye. I have also suffered from my first Epileptic seizure; another result of the attack.

I have gone back to working as a doorman at Pews now but it took a long while to have enough confidence. To begin with I struggled. It was very difficult. If it hadn’t been for the support of the owners of Pews, my employers DGL Security Services, and the police I may not have been able to have done it.

DGL Security Services have been fantastic, the police have been phenomenal, the owners and staff at Pews have been very, very supportive and caring, as have family and friends and even the general public. I have had emails from customers who came up to express their concern, Facebook messages. People come out of the woodwork in times of need and the support I have had from everyone was overwhelming.  I can’t thank everyone enough because without that support I would have been an absolute wreck. I have had a real struggle coping with everything this year but now I can start rebuilding my life.

Do you think there is anything else the Government or the police can do to reduce the number of these incidents?

It’s funny, someone commented to say Guildford needs more police and should charge the bars to pay for them. But quite the opposite, I think. I believe that the police numbers at the moment are satisfactory. I think that if you go too far you will create the wrong kind of atmosphere in the town and you would put off the good people from coming. Security, at most of these venues, is absolutely fine, perfectly adequate, with well trained staff who are very courteous.

The legal drinking age is 18 because people are deemed, at that age, adult enough to be accountable for their own actions. People should know their limits and be responsible for their own behaviour.

More education might be necessary so that the public don’t see door supervisors (we are not bouncers), as the enemy. We are not. A lot of door staff do the job simply to make a bit more money, perhaps they are raising a family. Personally, I have been saving to buy a house.

People need to realise that when a member of door staff asks you to leave, it’s for a justifiable reason and NOT ever personal. We don’t want trouble. It is not a power trip. We are actually there to try to ensure that everyone can have fun safely. That’s all.

Click here to read ‘Nine Years For Guildford Man Who Assaulted Pews Wine Bar Doorman’

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