Fury at police handling of illegal rave

By Richard SmithVILLAGERS have demanded answers from police over why an illegal rave was allowed to continue for three days, bringing “mob rule” to their doorsteps.

By Richard Smith

VILLAGERS have demanded answers from police over why an illegal rave was allowed to continue for three days, bringing “mob rule” to their doorsteps.

Suffolk police were questioning last night the people believed to be among the organisers of the huge rave, which caused disruption for thousands of villagers.

They hailed their operation to contain the three-day rave in Ramsholt, near Woodbridge, as a “success” - but villagers accused the force of failing to stop the illegal event before it caused widespread misery for people in Hollesley, Bawdsey, Alderton, Shottisham, Sutton and other villages.

Officers in riot gear finally stopped the event on Bank Holiday Monday after nearby villagers had endured two sleepless nights and 10 arrests were made.

Villagers said they were disappointed with Suffolk police's handling of the rave, demanded why it had not been started earlier and called for a tougher response in the future.

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Mike Hazelwood, of The Street, Shottisham, said: “The initial response from the police was very disappointing.

“Given the narrow lanes leading to the site it should have been relatively easy to deny access to those who were still arriving at 2am on Sunday morning, but it seems that the numbers were allowed to build to a level where the police were unable to assert control.

“Almost 24 hours elapsed before the noise was reduced to a more acceptable level and a further 24 hours before the site was cleared.

“It has been reported that police officers had to withdraw in the face of threatening behaviour from young people who claimed that they were only there to have a party.

“This is clearly unacceptable and I was pleased to see that the police ultimately were able to arrest some of those responsible. I hope that they will also take action against those organising the event.

“If this is brought to court the magistrates must impose penalties which guarantee that they make no profit from this event. We cannot allow Suffolk to be seen as a soft target for this type of activity.

“I also hope that the police will review their response and seek to put in place contingency measures that will allow a far more robust response to any future events of this nature.”

Richard Shepherd-Barron, from Alderton, said he was disappointed that police officers had chosen to negotiate with the organisers.

“People descend on an unspoilt piece of the country with no permission, cover it in filth and litter and disturb local people with their noise - and the police negotiate,” he said.

“This sort of event does not go on in this part of the world and the police seemed to have been laidback about it. I think they probably were not really aware of what they were dealing with.

“They should have responded more solidly from the word go and they could have nipped this in the bud from the beginning. I do not think that they reacted fast enough.

“I rang the police twice to complain and I gather they had had an enormous amount of calls from people in the area, but all they did with me was to read out a statement and not take notes from me or my name.”

Roger Buswell, chairman of Shottisham Parish Council, said: “The main thing is why was this not stopped in the first place before it started.

“The classic comment given to me from people is that if there was a party with some noise and two people rang up to complain, then it would be stopped. Here we had thousands of people being inconvenienced, but nothing was done. It was mob rule.

“People rang up to say they could not sleep and I was awake until 3am on Sunday just from the stream of cars going past my house.

“There was a considerable loss of trade in this village. The pub shut at 3pm on Sunday afternoon because people had gone home, people had gone from the caravan site and the weekenders had gone home.”

Kenneth Norton, 65, owner of St Margarets caravan site, Shottisham, said the site had been fully booked for the Bank Holiday weekend, but about half of the visitors left on Sunday after enduring a sleepless night.

“I am very disappointed for my caravanners. They said their head was spinning and they could not take it any more,” he said.

“The police went along on Saturday night, but when you are faced with up to 1,000 angry revellers, then discretion is the best thing and it could have been a lot worse.”

Rosemary Clarke, county councillor for the Wilford area, said: “I utterly condemn this type of illegal event. This rave has caused untold misery to local residents and stringent measures should be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.”

Superintendent John Everett, operations manager for Suffolk police's eastern area, said: “Overall, I think we have to count it as a successful operation.

“No officers or ravegoers were injured, we seized all the sound equipment and generators and I think we struck the balance and we achieved our objective.”

Supt Everett said officers had tried to stop the rave, but they had been met by a hostile crowd on Saturday evening who had pushed a police car out of the way and entered the field.

He added police had been concerned for the safety of both ravegoers and officers in the dark and so had negotiated with the party organisers.

“We had a number of promises that were being made about music being turned down and the event coming to a close, but unfortunately they were not honoured,” said Supt Everett.

Officers tried again to close the rave on Sunday evening, but they had to withdraw as they were pelted with bottles and stones.

Suffolk Coastal District Council's environmental health out-of-hours service was unable to use its powers to seize equipment due to the size of the crowd and police ruling it was too dangerous for the authority to act.

Andrew Nunn, council cabinet member for the environment, said it received 25 calls complaining about the rave.

“Under the law, this council does have the power to seize sound equipment if it is causing noise disturbance to residents, but we were unable to take action because of police concerns about the safety of our staff,” he said.

“It has been reported that the police were pelted with bottles and stones by part of the crowd, so I fully understand and accept police advice.”

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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