Equipment seized and fines issued amid new rules about illegal gatherings

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Thousands of pounds worth of equipment has been seized and dozens of reports made to police about possible breaches of restrictions as new lockdown rules came into force.

Under the new measures, which started on Friday ahead of the bank holiday weekend, organisers of illegal raves will be hit with £10,000 fines.

West Midlands Police said it had dealt with about 90 reports from the public about possible breaches of restrictions by Sunday morning “but 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”.

Also on Sunday, Welsh police said they were in attendance “at a large gathering of people for a rave in the Banwen area” in Neath Port Talbot.

South Wales Police said: “We are working to engage with organisers and attendees in order to remind them of their obligations under the current coronavirus legislation and the overarching goal for everyone to take personal responsibility by following Welsh Government regulations to keep Wales safe.”

They said people gathered “will know that their actions are irresponsible” and the force urged parents and guardians of young people to make sure they know their whereabouts.

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

Superintendent Chris Bowen said: “We hope people will recognise the ongoing risks of holding or taking part in events such as this but where intervention is needed, we will fine people and make arrests.”

Meanwhile thousands of pounds worth of equipment was seized by Essex Police ahead of an unlicensed music event the force said was due to take place in Harlow on Saturday afternoon.

Chief Inspector Lewis Basford said organisers of such events should ask themselves if it was worth the risk of the new fines.

He said: “My final message is to the organisers: we will seize the equipment – I don’t care if you’ve hired it from someone or if it’s yours, we will break up your event, and we can now fine you up to £10,000.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended the legislation, saying it represents a crackdown on “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she said: “We will not allow this breathtakingly selfish behaviour from a senseless minority to jeopardise the progress we have made together.”

The Metropolitan Police have responded to more than 1,000 unlicensed events since the end of June.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh has called for clearer legislation which would allow officers to “be more forceful clearing the area immediately, close the area down”.

But a police chief has argued confusion over the guidelines is being used by some as an “excuse” to break the rules.

Andy Rhodes, Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary, said there was a “world of difference” between people acting sensibly and others who were “flagrantly” ignoring the rules.

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