New government fines of up to £10,000 for organisers of illegal raves could also technically see people who organise family gatherings, children’s birthday parties or wakes slapped with large fines.
From Friday, anyone facilitating an unlicensed music event or “any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more” could face the hefty penalty, while fines for not wearing face coverings in places where they are required, like public transport and supermarkets, will double for repeat offenders.
People not wearing masks and participants in unlawful gatherings can be fined starting at £100, doubling for each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
The hefty fines have been introduced in a bid to combat a growing number of illegal raves across the country and to deter people from attending them over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Last weekend police in Birmingham said they had to break up more than 70 illegal parties - including a street rave with marquees and large house party - despite a rising number of coronavirus infections in the city.
As part of a crackdown on large gatherings, the government has upped the fines that organisers can face - with those who hold or are involving in holding a large gathering facing a £10,000 fine.
However, the legislation could technically also apply to gatherings of more than 30 people - leaving those who organise family occasions facing the same punishment.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are caught "holding" a kids birthday party with more than 30 people not from the same household you could be on the end of a £10,000 fine.— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) August 27, 2020
That really seems to be the effect here - and I don't see what that has to do with raves /8
The issue was highlighted by human rights solicitor Adam Wagner in a series of tweets pointing out that the large fines don’t only apply to raves.
He said: “It is already unlawful to *participate* in gatherings of over 30 people in private dwellings or public places subject to some pretty detailed exceptions - but if you are caught doing that the fines start at £100 and can rise to £3,200 for six offences..
“But what these regulations do is massively up the ante for those who "hold or [are] involved in the holding of a gathering" - they will now get a £10,000 fine. There are two kinds of gatherings which aren't allowed: - A rave - A gathering of more than 30 people (reg 5B).”
He said: “5B may be the real stinger here as it applies basically to any privately held social gathering which doesn't fall with the exceptions.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are caught "holding" a kids birthday party with more than 30 people not from the same household you could be on the end of a £10,000 fine. That really seems to be the effect here - and I don't see what that has to do with raves.
“I mean, this £10,000 fine business was meant to be about raves, not family reunions, religious events, kids' birthday parties? Why are they suddenly the focus of this huge, potentially life changing fine?”
He said, in his view, the fines could also apply to demonstrations if not organised by a specific organisations, which would mean “spontaneous” protests such as Black Lives Matter protests could also fall foul of the legislation.
Police have warned that the new legislation will mean “absolutely nothing” for enforcement in London.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the new legislation would only be helpful somewhere like a warehouse or field where an owner could be identified.
He said: “It 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.
“Raves are completely different to an unlicensed music event, which are a very difficult situation for my colleagues, who are abused and harassed and show amazing bravery.
“We need clearer legislation … we need to be more forceful, clearing the area immediately, close the area down, the Government need more forceful wording around groups of people gathering. This weekend has all the ingredients to be very, very stressful.”
Some 4,500 officers are set to be working this bank holiday weekend in the capital, and police have intelligence on “numerous” planned gatherings, he added.
Environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion plans to target airports and impose roadblocks from Friday in cities including London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds.
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