Warning of 'zero-tolerance approach' to illegal gatherings in Suffolk ahead of bank holiday weekend
There will be a zero-tolerance approach to illegal raves, unlicensed music events and parties in Suffolk .
That's the message from the county's police force ahead of the bank holiday weekend, as tougher measures including fines of up to £10,000 for organisers of such events come into force today.
Officials from Suffolk Police say they will be "clamping down on individuals who choose to break the law, risk spreading Covid-19 and ruin peace in their community".
They say people need to remember that, while most indoor gatherings of any size are now allowed, these are subject to a limit of 30 for gatherings at private dwellings which includes gardens and other outdoor spaces.
Generally, public outdoor gatherings of more than 30 are not allowed, and large outdoor gatherings on public land are only permitted if they have been organised by a business, charity, public or political body, a risk assessment has been carried out, and all reasonable measures have been taken to limit virus transmission.
As of today, a new criminal offence comes into effect regarding unlawful gatherings.
Those facilitating or organising illegal raves, unlicensed music events (UMEs), or any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more may face a £10,000 fine.
People who attend the illegal gatherings can face fines of £100 and those who have already received a fine will see the amount of doubled on each offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
A police spokesperson said: "UMEs are illegal, have no security, are not insured, and they are frequently associated with anti-social behaviour and violence.
"They cause disruption to those living nearby and can cause great distress through the noise, increased traffic and the damage to the environment.
"Those attending put themselves at risk as the organisers won’t have considered public safety in their planning.
"There will be no toilets, no welfare provision and no instructions on what to do in an emergency.
"People should remember that where recorded music is played for entertainment of members of the public or is provided for profit, it is a licensable activity and requires a licence. If the event goes ahead without a licence, then it is an UME."
The police have a range of powers to deal with such events, which include:
- Directing persons preparing the event, attending at the event, or waiting for the event, to disperse
- Power to enter on the land and seize equipment being used in the event
- Stopping persons from proceeding to such an event
Failure to comply with such directions is a criminal offence and seized equipment may be the subject of a court forfeiture order.
Temporary Chief Superintendent Marina Ericson, County Policing Commander, said: "We have no intelligence at this stage to suggest there is any likelihood of such an event taking place in Suffolk and we are grateful for people adhering to the rules on such events so far.
"However, we are mindful over recent weeks that elsewhere in the country these have taken place."
She said coronavirus still represents a "real threat".
"Whilst we of course want people to have a good time, this needs to be done in a socially responsible manner, within the law, and with due regard for everyone’s safety," she added.
"We have seen the effect where social distancing is ignored and the local lockdown measures that follow and we want to avoid this in Suffolk.
"Restrictions on gatherings are still in place and we will continue to engage with our communities, taking enforcement action where necessary. The new legislation means that those breaching the rules now face a significant financial penalty – potentially up to £10,000.
"To organisers of illegal raves and music events, you need to seriously consider the risks you’re placing on everyone in attendance, and understand that as organisers it is also your responsibility to keep people safe.
"Remember, professional event organisers have been establishing safe ways to hold outside music events through careful planning, adherence to government guidance and in liaising with the police and local authority.”
If you have any information that could assist the police in relation to unlicensed music events taking place contact Suffolk Constabulary on 101, or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.