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UK police have a go at cracking down on some COVID-rule-busting illegal raves

By | Published on Tuesday 1 September 2020


UK police had a good old go at cracking down this weekend on the illegal raves that have been popping up with increased frequency over the summer.

These unlicensed music events are, of course, capitalising on the fact that the clubbing sector is still in full-on shutdown as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

With lots of gatherings of that kind expected to take place over the bank holiday weekend, police forces were encouraged to act firmly, in part utilising new powers to issue fixed penalty notices of £10,000 against event organisers.

The effectiveness of that recently announced extra penalty for organising large gatherings that break COVID social distancing rules is debatable. And the extent to which it is a deterrent probably depends on the scale of the event.

Organisers of larger unlicensed events, who are already used to dealing with other legal risks beyond COVID issues, could just include any possible fines in the budget. And once they’ve done so, they then have an incentive to make their large gathering even larger.

Nevertheless, police forces in London, South Wales and West Yorkshire all confirmed they had issued – or have plans to issue – fixed penalty notices against organisers of an assortment of illegal raves that took place over the weekend in their respective regions. Police in London are investigating at least 58 unlicensed music events that were reported to the authorities.

Ahead of the bank holiday weekend, the boss of the Night-Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, said that the government should more proactively work with the clubbing sector to find safe ways for legit events to resume. Otherwise, he reckoned, the number of illegal events will likely continue to increase, despite the £10,000 fines, especially once students return to the big university cities.

“Small house parties and raves have been bubbling under the surface of society for many years now”, he noted. “But lockdown has intensified this with young people searching for alternatives to late-night venues as they struggle to cope with continuing restrictions on their lives due to the pandemic”.

“Given the imminent re-introduction of student communities to university cities, and restrictions on the reopening of nightclubs and venues, we are concerned that the freshers period will result in an eruption of illegal house parties and gatherings”, he went on. “This will create challenging times for police forces up and down the country”.

Kill continued: “As the night-time economy and events sector is unable to re-open to provide safe spaces for young people to express themselves, DIY alternatives are being organised, which are unregulated and may compromise young people’s safety. Previous illegal events have resulted in several serious incidents, but have continued to grow in popularity over the last few months”.

“Thousands of businesses remain closed and struggle to survive and protect the livelihoods of their staff while unsafe illegal events continue”, he concluded. “The government must consider safe options to allow the night-time economy and events sector to re-open to help combat the rise in illegal parties and raves across the country”.