Police received dozens of reports of illegal gatherings over the weekend and seized sound systems as new rules in England imposing £10,000 fines on organisers came into force.
Officers in the West Midlands, Essex, Norfolk, West Yorkshire and South Wales dealt with reports of unlicensed music events and the flouting of lockdown restrictions at house and street parties, though most forces said they would seek to remind people of their responsibilities before imposing fines.
The restrictions, in place since Friday, were prompted by repeated incidents of illegal raves during lockdown, which the home secretary, Priti Patel, said represented “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.
The rules allow for the imposition of £10,000 fines on organisers and an initial fine of £100 for anyone who attends such events without a face covering, doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200.
Police in the West Midlands said they had dealt with about 90 reports from the public about possible breaches of restrictions by Sunday morning, but that “we’ve not had to use our enforcement powers”.
The force said the weekend had so far “been dominated by reports of house parties, rather than the really big gatherings we’ve seen earlier in recent weeks”.
Norfolk police attended the scene of an illegal rave in Thetford forest, where more than 500 people had gathered.
With more than 100 vehicles on the site, the force said officers were “working to close the event down in a safe and controlled manner” and that paramedics had been called to the scene following reports a man had become unwell.
West Yorkshire police said a man was arrested and fined after DJing at a street party on Wepener Mount, Harehills on Saturday. Five other people at the gathering were fined.
Essex police seized thousands of pounds-worth of equipment before an unlicensed music event the force said was due to take place in Harlow on Saturday afternoon.
Police in Wales said they were in attendance “at a large gathering of people for a rave in the Banwen area” in Neath Port Talbot.
South Wales police said: “We are working to engage with organisers and attendees in order to remind them of their obligations under the current coronavirus legislation.”
The risk of coronavirus transmission tends to be lower outside than indoors, but raves pose specific risks, Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, said in June. “You’re exerting yourself, meaning that you have a higher respiration rate; you’re in close proximity and you may have been taking drugs or drinking alcohol, meaning your awareness of physical distancing will be reduced.”
The Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, Ken Marsh, who said the new rules “could be good for areas outside London, but it means absolutely nothing to us here”.
“People just set up a music box in the middle of the street and say ‘it’s not mine’. It’s utter nonsense,” he said.
Source: The Guardian