Organisers of unlicensed music events face fines of up to £10,000 in new crackdown

Organisers of illegal raves in England could face penalties of up to £10,000 as new regulations are introduced to help police clamp down on the rising number of unlawful gatherings taking place during the coronavirus crisis.

Aug 14, 2020
By Tony Thompson
An unlicensed music event in London.

In recent weeks, police forces across the country have had to respond to increased reports of unlawful gatherings and unlicensed music events. While in the majority of cases, officers have been able to disperse these gatherings with no further action necessary, some have become violent leading to officers being assaulted.

In addition to the regulations on large gatherings being breached, officers have found that social distancing is not properly adhered to at many of these events, putting further people at risk during the ongoing pandemic.

Ahead of a further easing of England’s lockdown rules, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday (August 13) that new fines are to be introduced for those hosting raves or other unlawful gatherings of more than 30 people. Government sources said that fines for those responsible could be up to £10,000.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would not allow progress in tackling the virus to be undermined by “a small minority of senseless individuals”, adding: “These measures send a clear message – if you don’t cooperate with the police and if you put our health at risk, action will follow.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said forces would increase patrols of potential hotspots for raves in the coming weeks, while police chiefs are appealing to the public for their support in helping to identify those responsible.

Last weekend, West Midlands Police shut down 125 parties and raves – and closed a pub – as officers took action to stop illegal gatherings and anti-social behaviour across the region. This included a gathering of up to 600 people and the closure of a DJ party with more than 60 attendees on Saturday night.

In South Wales, section 35 dispersal orders have been enforced on the ‘Oval Basin’ area in the popular tourist spot Mermaid Quay following arrests over recent weekends. Using the four ‘Es’ approach – Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce – those regularly attending the area in Cardiff Bay were ordered to disperse and the force took action against those who were involved in disorder and anti-social behaviour.

In Kent, officers were called to reports of a large gathering on Greatstone beach last Sunday. Officers engaged with a number of individuals throughout the day to explain and encourage compliance with the latest government guidance and address reports of anti-social behaviour. Following an altercation, a 29-year-old man from Stockwell was arrested and charged with dangerous driving and actual bodily harm and inquiries continue to identify those responsible for throwing bottles that hit attending officers.

In Greater Manchester, officers prevented an illegal car meet in Wigan, as well as two illegal gatherings in Salford and Rochdale. The Greater Manchester Police Intelligence Unit also recently identified that a rave-style event with hundreds of attendees was due to be held in the Dovestones area. Working alongside Oldham Council and United Utilities, officers closed a number of access routes in the vicinity to prevent the event from occurring.

The Metropolitan Police Service says it dealt with more than more than 500 illegal events in London in July.

NPCC lead for unlicensed music events, Commander Ade Adelekan, said: “Unlicensed music events are unlawful and unregulated. These events are hosted without regard for the safety of those attending, and police have observed cases of anti-social behaviour, sales of drugs and gang activity. We ask anyone thinking of attending a block party or a rave to avoid doing so.

“It is vital that forces obtain information about any illegal events at the earliest opportunity. As organisers are able to spread the word about these events quickly online, timely information about suspicious activity or plans enables forces to plan ahead and take effective action against them.

“To the organisers of this sort of activity, I strongly advise that you seriously consider the risks you’re creating for everyone in attendance and the wider community. There is a risk of prosecution for those who organise these events and equipment will be seized.”

However, Metropolitan Police Federation Chairman Ken Marsh said the new legislation around unlicensed music events would massively stretch policing resources. He called on the Government to ban such events outright.

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