Police chief pledges crackdown on illegal raves

STEPHEN PULLINGER A Norfolk police chief last night pledged a tough crackdown on illegal raves after an event in Yarmouth led to a 100-strong angry mob attacking the town's police station.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A Norfolk police chief last night pledged a tough crackdown on illegal raves after an event in Yarmouth led to a 100-strong angry mob attacking the town's police station.

Norfolk's new deputy chief constable said “sinister elements” were responsible as youngsters hurled beer cans and bottles at officers and tried to storm the police station after sound equipment destined for their rave on the town's Harfrey's industrial estate was seized.

As the mob swarmed over the fence of the station yard in Howard Street North shortly after midnight yesterday one officer suffered a head wound from a flying beer can and two patrol cars were damaged.

Reinforcements for the handful of officers inside the station were swiftly called from as far afield as Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

Witnesses from flats opposite yesterday incredulously relived what they described as “riot scenes” with police dogs barking and the sound of bottles smashing.

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Hours later, the bloody scenes escalated even further at the scene of the rave - about two miles away on the industrial estate - as revellers attacked police with bricks, bottles, cans and planks of wood stolen from a nearby yard. One officer was even left with shards of bottle glass in his visa.

Police, numbering more than 100 at the height of operations, responded in riot gear and used CS spray to force out some 300 revellers who had barricaded themselves in a factory yard.

As one more officer was injured, requiring hospital treatment, and two more vehicles were badly damaged, operational commander Supt Jo Parrett justified the use of riot gear and CS spray as “an appropriate response to a very violent and volatile incident”.

Police seized 44 of the revellers' cars for evidence and made nearly 20 initial arrests on suspicion of a variety of offences, including violent disorder, possession of drugs and burglary.

Deputy Chief Constable Ian Learmonth, who joined Norfolk police this month from Strathclyde, said: “By attacking the police station, the organisers of this event have shown a total disregard for the rule of law.

“The strong message I want to put across is that we are not going to put up with this in Norfolk. Our citizens don't want that, our businesses don't want that and we certainly don't want that.

“If you are planning to organise an unlicensed musical event in this county, expect us to turn up, take away your kit and pursue a prosecution.

“We have seen some really sinister elements tonight, following a police car back to the station and besieging the station. We will not tolerate that behaviour.”

He warned that if follow-up inquires identified further offences police would be actively pursuing the perpetrators.

Supt Parrett said patrol officers had stopped a white Ford Transit van carrying the sound equipment to the Harfrey's industrial estate at about 11.30pm on Saturday as part of a routine operation to check for stolen scrap metal.

The three occupants ran off but were caught and arrested and brought back to Yarmouth police station along with the sound equipment.

She said: “Other revellers who were gathering at the site formed a convoy with their vehicles and tried to stop the police car leaving with the sound equipment.

“Their actions constituted unacceptable behaviour and appalling driving, putting innocent members of the public at risk.”

She said the revellers began to demonstrate outside the police station and by 12.30am there were well over 100 of them throwing bottles and full cans of beer.

“People were coming over the wall at the back of the police station, two police cars were damaged and an officer was struck on the head by a can,” she said.

There were only a few officers inside the station but reinforcements were called from across the region, and about 25 special constables volunteered for duty.

She said: “We have shown that we will mobilise any resources to deal with unacceptable behaviour and we will deal with it effectively.”

As station reinforcements arrived, the revellers were forced back by 1am and police attention turned to the compound around the company Thermaglow, on Harfrey's industrial estate, where the rave had got under way.

Supt Parrett said: “We kept a seal on it throughout the night and as we were able to get an effective amount of resources we moved in to disperse them.

“As well as all the sound equipment, a number of vehicles were seized, and it is possible some of these will be crushed. We are looking at every power to dispose of these vehicles.”

With a bank holiday approaching, she made a plea to businesses and farms across the county to remain vigilant and block easy accesses that could be used by revellers.

Residents in flats in Howard Street North, overlooking the police station, were yesterday still in shock after witnessing the night's events.

Alma Kane, 65, said: “The noise was so bad I could not sleep. I got up to find out what was happening and I was shocked to see a riot going on with youths shouting and messing around and police dogs barking. I thought someone must have been stabbed or something.”

Neighbour Shaun Seakins said: “Police were lined up, about 20 of them, protecting the station. There was a tremendous noise with cheering, shouting and bottles smashing.”

An area of Howard Street North remained cordoned off for several hours yesterday morning as scenes-of-crime officers inspected the scene and gathered about 20 objects that had been used as missiles.

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