Tottering in their high heels, two women stumble across the road holding each other up, shivering in the cold as they make their way towards the next bar.

Their glittering dresses shimmer as the blue lights flash against the sequins and they drunkenly chat over the piercing sirens – they are totally oblivious they have just walked out in front of a police car racing to a 999 call.

Moments later a man, dressed in a snowman jumper complete with a 3D carrot, steps out into the road, sticking out his hand to hail the panda car as a taxi – he falls flat on his face. It’s the last Saturday before Christmas and it’s going to be a long night for Chester city centre police.

“It annoys me. Imagine if it was their family I was rushing to,” says Sergeant Andy Burrage as he is forced to stop the emergency vehicle as crowds of revellers amble in the road, and a couple dash out, playing chicken with the car as it races from the city.


It’s 2.30am on Sunday, December 21. I’m sat in the front of the police car with Sgt Burrage, the duty sergeant for the night, as he expertly drives us around the city. During the course of the evening I get some funny looks, weird requests and sexist abuse thrown my way – I am shocked at what people, braver by drink, will say to the police.

Just hours earlier laden with bags, I was battling crowds for my last minute Christmas shopping, listening to buskers singing carols, and sipping hot coffee – now as I look out of the window I see a girl slumped in the doorway of Superdrug wrapped in tin foil, her shoes lie discarded on the pavement – the city couldn't look more different.

Between the hours of 6pm and 6am officers respond to more than 60 incidents in Chester, not including those individual bobbies come across spontaneously, I’m told.

Earlier in the evening they confiscated plastic guns from a group of men dressed as toy soldiers, who were reportedly 'storming' into shops and restaurants.

During the four hours I’m with Sgt Burrage his radio never stops, we attend a suspected ‘glassing’ in Revolution, where a 24-year-old man from Dudley is arrested and charged with assault, an assault at Rosies and an alleged domestic incident at a house in Hough Green, amongst many other calls.

Sgt Andy Burrage is surrounded by women on a hen party as he patrols the city on race day
Sgt Andy Burrage

At around 2am I watch as police handcuff a man, pinning him to the ground on the steps outside Phoenix on Watergate Street. A woman cries as he shouts at officers, hurling abuse at them as another woman crawls on her hands and knees along the street after police officers ask her to leave.

Crowds gather as officers try to put the man, a 28-year-old, into the back of the van. He pushes back against officers who hold a black cloth close to his face, something I gather is to stop him spitting at them.

Police detain man outside Phoenix in Chester

While most people on the night out seem to be just up for a good time, there are so many novelty Christmas jumpers being proudly paraded around the city with flashing lights and sticky out noses, but the affects of festive drinking are clearly taking their toll, with every single incident we attend being drink-related.

Urination is still a problem in the city. Some people just can’t wait to go, and would rather use the Rows to relieve themselves.

During the night I see one reveller, a 21-year-old from Neston, questioned by Sgt Burrage – he has been identified on CCTV as an alleged ‘urinator’ on the historic landmark. He is stopped while waiting in the queue for Rosies.

“A lot of people say we haven’t got anything better to do, but it only takes minutes,” said Sgt Burrage, who explained most of the people who commit this offence are from out of town and don’t even think about the damage they are doing to the city and its heritage.

“You cannot hide from CCTV in this city,” said Sgt Burrage, as officers arrest a 26-year-old man who was seen on CCTV on suspicion of possessing cocaine.

Indeed the city's CCTV coverage was highlighted on national television during a Channel 5 series last year which revealed booze-fueled fights, projectile vomiting and revellers lying comatose in the street.

Review of the year 2013: Police deal with drunk racegoers sprawled on the steps at the new theatre site in Chester - part of Channel 5 caught on camera. Front cover October 24, 2013.
Police deal with drunk racegoers in Channel 5's Caught on Camera

As the bars close and crowds make their way through the city to clubs and late night drinking venues, I see a woman fall over, her dress flipping over her head as she stumbles on to the pavement near the cross. She is helped by Street Pastors, who hand out tin foil, flip flops and help paramedics across the city.

Superintendent Martin Cleworth said: “Christmas is a great time for people to go out and enjoy themselves with friends and family.

“While most people are out to have a good time, it’s important to remember to stay safe and be responsible.

“It is about planning your nights in advance to make sure that you’re going to have a safe and enjoyable time, and not putting yourself in a situation that could get you in trouble or make you vulnerable.

“Officers will be out on patrol throughout Christmas, reassuring the public that we are there when and where you need us.”