Missiles thrown at officers as police shut down mass gatherings

Police were pelted with missiles as officers worked to shut down mass gatherings over the bank holiday weekend despite new coronavirus rules to deter illegal raves.

Bottles and cans were thrown at officers as they entered the site of an unlicensed music event which attracted some 500 revellers in Thetford forest in Norfolk.

Meanwhile, up to 3,000 people – some thought to have travelled from other parts of the UK – descended on Banwen in Neath Port Talbot, South Wales, for an illegal rave.

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Two organisers were handed fixed penalty notices for £10,000, South Wales Police said, in line with the new rules which came into force on Friday.

Officers remained at the scene on Sunday evening and were due to stay throughout the night, with the force saying around 1,000 people were still there.

Superintendent Jason James said illegal events like the one in Banwen “have a significant impact on the community”.

He added: “Those gathering know that their actions are irresponsible and we are working with other agencies and utilising the legislation available to us including Covid-19 legislation but we need to ensure that any action taken is done so safely.”

Norfolk Police said the Thetford forest event had been shut down and they had made “a number” of arrests as well as seizing sound equipment.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Davison, of Norfolk Police, said they had to draft in help from other forces and had deployed specialist teams of public order officers to go into the site and shut the music off.

He said they had “taken positive action to make sure the event didn’t go on into a second night”.

He added: “Officers did meet some hostility when entering the site with bottles and cans used as missiles and thrown at officers. Fortunately, no one was injured.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see these types of events taking place when coronavirus continues to be a real threat to our communities.

“We’re working to identify the organisers and will do everything within our power, where evidence is available, to prosecute and bring them to justice.”

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Earlier, West Yorkshire Police said eight people were fined a total of £10,000 after several parties across Headingley and Burley on Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday.

The force also said one man has been charged with causing a public nuisance after officers broke up a street party on Wepener Mount, Harehills, on Saturday. Five other people at the party have been fined.

Meanwhile, thousands of pounds worth of equipment was also seized in the police crackdown.

The force seized what they believe to be around £20,000 of music equipment from a garden at an address in the Chapeltown area of Leeds on Sunday, which officers suspect was being kept for an unlicensed music event.

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It came after Essex Police said it had also seized thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment – but did not give an exact figure – ahead of an unlicensed music event the force said was due to take place in Harlow on Saturday afternoon.

West Midlands Police said it had dealt with about 90 reports from the public about possible breaches of restrictions by Sunday morning, “but we’ve not had to use our enforcement powers”.

National vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales Che Donald said the legislation should be clearer to allow policing to be “more effective”.

His words were echoed by Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh, who said clarity around the new legislation would allow officers to “be more forceful clearing the area immediately”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended the new rules, saying it represents a crackdown on “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she said: “We will not allow this breathtakingly selfish behaviour from a senseless minority to jeopardise the progress we have made together.”

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