Police are trying to shut down illegal raves in South Wales and Norfolk after thousands travelled from across the UK to attend one event, despite new rules to crack down on mass gatherings.
Up to 3,000 people attended the “totally unacceptable” event in the rural village of Banwen and officers are at the scene, South Wales Police said.
It comes as police in Norfolk worked to shut down an all-night unlicensed music event in a forest attended by more than 500 people.
New rules which came into force on Friday ahead of the bank holiday weekend mean organisers of illegal raves could be hit with £10,000 fines.
Chief Superintendent Simon Belcher of South Wales Police said the force is “looking at all pieces of legislation” as they deal with the crowds.
“This type of illegal gathering is totally unacceptable and we are aware of the concerns it is causing for the local community,” he said.
“We have a number of resources in attendance including the police helicopter and roads policing officers.
“It has been estimated there are up to 3,000 people at the gathering who have apparently travelled from across the UK and we are looking at all pieces of legislation as to what action can be undertaken safely.”
He added that unlawfully parked cars “will be dealt with” and people who turn up to the event will be turned away.
Norfolk Police said officers are trying to close down a gathering with more than 500 people and 100 vehicles in Thetford Forest, near to the English Heritage site Grimes Graves, which started late on Saturday night.
Paramedics were also called to the scene following reports a man had become unwell.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Davison said: “Coronavirus is still with us and continues to be a real threat so it’s extremely disappointing to see these types of events taking place when the rest of our communities are doing everything they can to help stop the spread of the virus.
“We will work to identify organisers, seize equipment, deal with any criminal offences and impose penalties where evidence is available.”
Illegal gatherings = coronavirus dream. We all like a good time, but there’s a time and a place. Raves are not that place. Young people are not immune to this disease. Going to an event could harm your health and your bank account. https://t.co/KLwyxw7e0Q pic.twitter.com/XaXPmlFYiq
— Norfolk Police (@NorfolkPolice) August 29, 2020
Pictures on social media showed dozens of people dancing at the outdoor event in Banwen, Neath Port Talbot, which had a stage and large sound system, with people dressed in hi-viz jackets appearing to act as marshals.
The events are just two of several taking place across the UK despite the new rules coming into force on Friday for England, prompted by more than 1,000 unlicensed events since the end of June.
Anyone in England in breach of the rules could be fined £10,000, while at least £100 fines will be handed out to people not wearing masks or attending unlawful gatherings, with repeat offenders having fines doubled to a maximum of £3,200.
The Welsh government’s restrictions allow for up to 30 people to meet outdoors.
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.
West Yorkshire Police also seized about £20,000 of music equipment from a property in the Chapeltown area of Leeds ahead of a suspected unlicensed music event.
Superintendent Chris Bowen said: “Unlicensed music events and large gatherings of people only serve to spread this deadly virus, and we will take action against those who organise and attend them.”
Essex Police said they had seized thousands of pounds of equipment before an unlicensed music event due to have taken place in Harlow on Saturday afternoon and are looking to take the organisers to court.
Meanwhile, West Midlands Police said early on Sunday it had dealt with about 90 reports from the public about possible breaches of restrictions “but we’ve not had to use our enforcement powers”.
“Tonight has been dominated by reports of house parties, rather than the really big gatherings we’ve seen earlier in recent weeks,” a force spokesman said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new rules targeting illegal raves are in response to “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.
But Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh warned the legislation would mean “absolutely nothing” for enforcement in London.
He said: “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.”
He wanted laws which would let officers “be more forceful” in clearing areas.