GOVERNMENT sanctioned £10,000 fines for organising mass gatherings should act as a deterrent, Hampshire Police Federation has said, but concerns remain about how officers will impose them.
The new anti-COVID measures aim to stop illegal raves and get-togethers after huge parties sprung up across post lockdown England and Wales.
While the tough stance is being backed by Hampshire Police Federation, it says having to break up mass events in remote locations attended by hundreds of people is going to put officers at risk.
“We haven’t [had to deal with mass gatherings] yet but I would expect them to happen in the county soon,” Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoe Wakefield said.
“We’d hope that the £10,000 fine for the organisers of these events is a good deterrent, but it’s not always easy to identify those responsible once the events are in full swing.
“Obviously if the events are being planned, particularly if they’re being planned on social media, then you might be able to identify the organiser, but it’s not always easy.”
The fact that most events take place in remote locations, often far from back-up resources for officers is also putting them in danger, Zoe said.
“Once the events are already up and running it’s very difficult to break them up, and it requires a lot of police resources that we just don’t have regularly available,” Zoe said.
“Most of these events take place in remote locations, so all those factors make it quite a high-risk environment for officers.
“You can see why in some areas of the country senior officers have allowed the events to continue because they’ve had to make that decision that it’s too risky or they don’t have sufficient resources to try and stop the event.
“They have had to make that tough decision to allow it to run.
“What we’re doing in Hampshire is gathering information and intelligence to try and prevent the events from happening, engaging with the organisers when they’re identified to make them aware of the £10,000 fine that will hopefully dissuade them from running the event in the first place.”
Having to attend any event is also putting officers at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 too, not to mention the dangers they are likely to face from dealing with people who may be intoxicated on drink and drugs.
“COVID is an extra factor, but why are people holding these events?” Zoe said.
“A lot of drug use happens during these events so if people are not very coherent because they’ve used drugs or people are dealing drugs then they’re not going to want to interact with police, they’re going to try and avoid us, and they’re not going to want us to go anywhere near them.
“So that escalates the risk massively, and COVID is an added factor within that.
“There will be some people who are going along just to have a good time and who want to dance to the music, but I suspect there’s a proportion going along who want to either take drugs or deal drugs and that adds that risk element to us.”