PRESS RELEASE: Rave debate in ParliamentOn Thursday July 19, Christopher Fraser MP for Norfolk South West will be leading an adjournment debate on Raves. The subject is of increasing concern to members of the Country Land and Business Association whose legal expert, Christopher Price, has been asked to brief Mr Fraser. The full briefing is below.
On Thursday July 19, Christopher Fraser MP for Norfolk South West will be leading an adjournment debate on Raves. The subject is of increasing concern to members of the Country Land and Business Association whose legal expert, Christopher Price, has been asked to brief Mr Fraser. The full briefing is below.
The Country Land and Business Association has around 38,000 members who between them own or manage over half the rural land in England and Wales.
Over the years, a number of our members have been troubled by unauthorised raves in the countryside and they continue to be so. The reforms introduced by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act went some way in resolving the problems, but times have changed, particularly with the rise of "Nu rave" culture. As such, a rethink of the legislation and particularly the powers available to the police is required.
We are of course not saying that raves should be prohibited outright, just that they should be conducted in accordance with the licensing legislation, as is the case with the many other events that take place in the countryside.
PROBLEMS WITH CURRENT POSITION
Police powers only available in respect of gatherings with "amplified music" that causes "serious distress"
The police powers to restrict unauthorised raves only apply to gatherings "at which amplified music which by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality".
However, noise is only one of the problems that raves cause. In addition there are problems concerning litter, anti social behaviour and general environmental harm.
For example, on the Gayton Estate in Norfolk there is a rave most weekends during the summer, regularly attracting over 1000 people and 250 vehicles On each occasion the land has left littered with beer bottles, cans the detritus of drug use, including thousands of cans of nitrous oxide - the gas is used for inhaling. There are also piles of human excrement.
On a number of occasions horses occupying a livery at nearby West Acre have been terrorised by numbers cars driving across the fields. At Cockely Cley the pigs on a pig farm suffered similar disturbance.
Because raves that do not have sufficient amplified music to cause serious distress are exempt from enforcement action, the promoters of raves hold them in isolated areas. In our experience isolated farmland, particularly if there are barns that can be broken into, woodland and quarries are especially popular.
Almost inevitably these are often areas that are protected under nature conservation legislation as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) SSSIs are described by Natural England as "the country's very best wildlife and geological sites".
In early May there was a rave held on the SSSI at Horsey Gap, near Great Yarmouth. The site is on the coast and sand dunes form part of the sea defences. The rave cause considerable physical damage to the vegetation the usual drug paraphernalia, including needles, was left lying around. It cost the landowner £8,000 to clean the site. He got no help from the local authority or any other agency.
Under s. 28P(6) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage the special features of a SSSI if the person knows that what is destroyed or damaged was within a SSSI. As such, a person who lives in or near the SSSI and who is therefore likely to know of its existence risks prosecution for carrying out harmful acts, but the person attending the rave, who is far less likely to be aware of its existence, may carry out the same act but not be liable.
Both Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales have powers to make byelaws, under s.28(R) of the 1981 Act "for the protection of a site of special scientific interest". However, so far as we are aware, to date this power has not been used to control the harm cause by raves. .
Police powers to seize vehicles and equipment inadequate
In essence, for practical purposes, the police can only take enforcement action once the rave has started, by which time it is too late.
At present the police only have the power to seize vehicles and equipment once a direction to remove them from the site has been made and has not been complied with as soon as is "reasonably practicable".
There are two problems with this.
Firstly, there are a number of grounds on which the police can issue a direction to people on the land requiring them to leave and remove vehicles and equipment which they have with them. However, this means that the owners of the vehicles and equipment have to be identified.
This is not always possible. The promoters of raves are highly organised and know how to avoid police action. They use marshals to direct people and traffic to the site, at Marham in Norfolk earlier this month the organisers apparently had a convoy of motor bikes to direct people to the site.
These marshals invariably wear hoodies and scarves, presumably to conceal their identities, but it has the effect of making them look all the more intimidating.
It may well be that the persons on the land leave when directed, but if they disclaim responsibility for the equipment or vehicles, they are not obliged to remove them. Accordingly there is no effective way of preventing the event going ahead if large numbers of people turn up soon after.
Secondly, even though a direction may have been issued, the police tell us that by the time they come to enforce it, the numbers that generally attend a gathering are such that, for practical purpose, it is impossible to do so. The heath and safety considerations preclude it.
In addition we accept that the numbers of police required to take enforcement action against a gatherings of any size would be significant.
SUMMARY OF POLICE POWERS -
Meaning of "rave"
S. 63 defines a rave as being a gathering on land in open air of 100 or more people at which amplified music is played during the night and is such as, by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played, is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality
If a police superintendent has a reasonable belief that
(a) two or more persons are making preparations for the holding there of a gathering,
(b) ten or more persons are waiting for such a gathering to begin there, or
(c) ten or more persons are attending such a gathering which is in progress
he may direct those people to leave the land and remove any vehicles or other property which they have with them.
Non compliance is an offence,
Powers of entry and seizure
In addition the police superintendent who reasonably believes the circumstances exist which would justify the giving of a direction under s.63 may authorise a countable to enter the land to
(a) ascertain whether circumstances exist; and
(b) if a direction has not been complied with, seize any equipment or property.
Power to stop persons proceeding
If a police constable reasonably believes that a person is on his way to a gathering he may stop that person and direct him not to proceed in the direction of that gathering.
Non compliance is an offence.
For further information please contact Christopher Price, CLA public law adviser, 0207 460 7949
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