18 January 2002

Police powerless as loophole lets raves ruin farms

By Jonathan Riley

ILLEGAL raves held on farms will become a frequent problem this summer unless the law is changed, a senior police officer has warned.

Inspector Joe Wrigley of Essex Police said organisers were increasingly aware of a loophole in the Criminal Justice Act which renders the police powerless to stop illegal raves on farms.

Inspector Wrigley said police were only able to act if four criteria were met. "The party must be held in the open air and causing serious distress to local inhabitants. It must also be attended by over 100 people and there must be amplified music at night for us to intervene," he told farmers weekly.

"The law has to be changed. But central government has so far rejected our call. I am also looking into the possibility of having these raves classified as public entertainment. If we could achieve that the organisers would need a licence before holding an event."

Inspector Wrigley said police were frustrated after being criticised for doing nothing to stop two illegal raves on farms in Essex and Lincolnshire during Christmas and the New Year. In each case, it was the farmer and landowner who faced risking a charge of breaching the peace.

Graeme Stephen of Great Dunmow, Essex, was arrested after he tried to disconnect the power supply for amplifiers during a rave in one of his buildings on Boxing Day. He was later released without charge. David Benton, tried to evict 70 ravegoers from his farm at Moorby, Lincolnshire.

Mr Benton claims about £2000 of damage was caused when about 70 revellers broke into his buildings on New Years Eve and lit fires. A gate was apparently rammed by a large vehicle to gain access and will cost over £600 to replace, he added.

Mr Benton said he was now too afraid to leave the farm and go on holiday after receiving a threatening phone call following the rave. "The caller said they were going to do me again and that I shouldnt try to stop it. The police have left me feeling completely unprotected."

He endured a 12-hour period during which revellers ran amok lighting a fire and fuelling it with wooden calf pens and a wooden trailer bottom.

"Even though there was criminal damage caused one of the policemen who turned up told me he couldnt arrest anyone because he didnt know who had done it."

Despite this Mr Benton said he wanted to work with police rather than take the law into his own hands. &#42

Bent on justice… David Benton wants a change in the law to stop illegal farm raves before they become commonplace.