Police chief admits illegal rave mistake

SUFFOLK'S Chief Constable last night apologised for "abandoning" villagers to mob rule when hundreds of revellers descended on a quiet village for an illegal rave.

By Richard Smith

SUFFOLK'S Chief Constable last night apologised for "abandoning" villagers to mob rule when hundreds of revellers descended on a quiet village for an illegal rave.

Alastair McWhirter admitted the force had "got it wrong" when villages near Woodbridge endured three days of loud noise and disturbance because of the event, staged in a field at Ramsholt.

He pledged to ensure there would not be a repeat of the scenes over the August Bank Holiday weekend, when more than 500 people congregated at the rave, dancing to music on huge sound systems throughout the night.

Mr McWhirter attended last night's Shottisham Parish Council meeting, which was attended by about 50 people, and repeatedly apologised for the inconvenience caused to local residents by the rave.

"We did not get our act together quick enough and it took a lot of resources. I apologise for what happened - we got it wrong," he said.

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He said there had been 11 raves in the county before the latest incident and they had all taken place without trouble.

Some of the events took place on Forestry Commission land and others were on such isolated property that no-one was troubled.

The county's police force had been praised for their handling of illegal events but then the force performed "below standard" when confronted by the large gathering at Ramsholt.

Nine people were now on police bail, three lorry loads of musical equipment had been confiscated and the police operation, which included Bank Holiday overtime, had cost £50,000.

Mr McWhirter said: "We got intelligence at 10.20pm on the Saturday night and we could have resolved it on Sunday. We have had a debrief. All I can do is to apologise, I am very sorry.

"It is not good for our reputation and we will take steps to ensure that it does not happen again. We have had a lot of soul searching over this and it was not handled as well as we would have liked.

"We want to send out a message that you do not come to Suffolk to do this and that this is not what we want here. People do have the right to enjoy themselves but they do not have a good time at the expense of destroying people's weekends.

"In the future we will make better use of the intelligence we get and we will take action more promptly. We have cleared up 11 raves already this year and we did have a good record for dealing with raves and we had been held up as a good example.

"We will get responses to people's questions more quickly and I am sorry because I know you felt abandoned."

Rosie Clarke, county councillor for the Wilford ward, said: "The Chief Constable has acknowledged that there were shortcomings and we have to accept that it was a total disruption and unpleasant occurrence.

"We have to accept the police's assurance that they will do their utmost in the future to make sure it will not happen again."

The noise was heard throughout the peninsular including Orford, Alderton, Hollesley, Shottisham, Sutton and Waldringfield.

The police helicopter monitored the disturbance for several hours and officers were pelted with stones and bottles by the hostile crowd when they attempted to put a stop to proceedings.

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