Clearer legislation needed to deal with unlicensed music events in London

New legislation that means organisers of illegal raves face fines of up to £10,000 will mean “absolutely nothing” for enforcement in London, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation has said.

Aug 28, 2020
By Website Editor
Ken Marsh

From today (August 28), anyone staging an unlicensed music event or “any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more” could face the hefty penalty, said the Home Office.

Fines for not wearing face coverings where it is mandated, such as public transport and supermarkets, will also double for repeat offenders, it added.

People not wearing masks and participants in unlawful gatherings can be fined starting at £100, doubling for each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.

Police in the capital have come under attack from missile-throwing mobs while trying to contain unlicensed events since lockdown restrictions began easing, which coincided with a period of warm weather.

Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the new legislation would only be helpful somewhere like a warehouse or field where an owner could be identified.

He told the PA news agency: “It 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.

“Raves are completely different to an unlicensed music event, which are a very difficult situation for my colleagues, who are abused and harassed and show amazing bravery.

“We need clearer legislation… we need to be more forceful, clearing the area immediately, close the area down, the Government needs more forceful wording around groups of people gathering.

“This weekend has all the ingredients to be very, very stressful.”

Some 4,500 officers are set to be working this bank holiday weekend in the capital, and police have intelligence on “numerous” planned gatherings, he added.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner suggested the legislation could extend beyond illegal raves and may effectively ban spontaneous protests, religious events or parties.

He tweeted: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are caught ‘holding’ a kids birthday party with more than 30 people not from the same household you could be on the end of a £10,000 fine.

“That really seems to be the effect here – and I don’t see what that has to do with raves.

“I think this would also apply to demonstrations (eg, Black Lives Matter) if not organised by an organisation. So spontaneous protests are out.”

Environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion plans to target airports and impose roadblocks from Friday in cities including London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds.

The latest data shows police have issued fewer than 40 fines to people for not wearing an appropriate face covering on public transport, despite previous claims from the Transport Secretary that one in ten passengers were breaking the rules.

The Metropolitan Police Service has responded to more than 1,000 unlicensed events since the end of June.

The new legislation is called the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions on Holding of Gatherings and Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.

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