Police received dozens of reports of illegal gatherings over the weekend and began issuing the first fines after new rules in England penalising organisers of illegal raves came into force.

Two organisers at a rave in Banwen, West Glamorgan, that attracted an estimated 3,000 people were handed fixed penalty notices for £10,000 on Sunday. Officers remained at the scene in to the night along with about 1,000 people, South Wales police said.

The force added that some music equipment had been removed after a section 63 notice was issued and a number of section 59 orders have been issued for people using their vehicles in an anti-social manner.

Elsewhere, officers in the West Midlands, Essex, Norfolk and West Yorkshire dealt with reports of unlicensed music events and the flouting of lockdown restrictions at house and street parties, though most forces said they would seek to remind people of their responsibilities before imposing fines.

The restrictions, in place since Friday, were prompted by repeated incidents of illegal raves during lockdown, which the home secretary, Priti Patel, said represented “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.

The rules allow for the imposition of £10,000 fines on organisers and an initial fine of £100 for anyone who attends such events without a face covering, doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200.

In Norfolk police broke up an overnight illegal rave in Thetford forest where more than 500 people had gathered.

Dozens of officers, some holding protective shields, faced off with the revellers, and bottles and cans were thrown at officers as they entered the site.

Paramedics were also called to the scene following reports a man had become unwell. There did not appear to have been any arrests and police dismantled the sound system.

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

The force said the weekend had so far “been dominated by reports of house parties, rather than the really big gatherings we’ve seen earlier in recent weeks”.

West Yorkshire police said a man was arrested and fined after DJing at a street party on Wepener Mount, Harehills on Saturday. Five other people at the gathering were fined.

Essex police seized thousands of pounds-worth of equipment before an unlicensed music event the force said was due to take place in Harlow on Saturday afternoon.

The risk of coronavirus transmission tends to be lower outside than indoors, but raves pose specific risks, Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, said in June. “You’re exerting yourself, meaning that you have a higher respiration rate; you’re in close proximity and you may have been taking drugs or drinking alcohol, meaning your awareness of physical distancing will be reduced.”

The Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, Ken Marsh, said the new rules “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 said.

The Guardian

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