by P. Mills – New Years Eve 2000
Copyright: P. Mills
Hundreds of revellers had their New Year’s Eve ruined when police broke up their party at five minutes to midnight. Champagne corks were about to pop when officers raided the illegal party in Shoreham. Two other illegal raves in Hove were also shut down during the height of the celebrations.One reveller said: “It was so mean spirited of the police. “It was 11.55pm and people were standing around waiting for midnight with bottles of champagne and party poppers. “Then the police arrived and people were in tears. They had come from miles around. We understand the laws are in place for safety reasons, but our whole evening was ruined.”
Police, however, were unrepentant. Superintendent Graham Cox, commander of the Hove-Shoreham division, said: “I would rather be described as a party pooper than have to explain to relatives the next day why I allowed such a dangerous party to continue until people were burned to death.
“There was a real risk of that happening.”
Mr Cox said the New Year’s Eve inferno at a disco in Holland where up to 12 people died and 130 were injured supported the police argument. More than 200 were ordered out of the Shoreham rave in an underground car park on an industrial estate off the A259. Another 200 people were ejected from an illegal party at 12.45am on New Year’s Day on the second floor of a factory unit in Ellen Street, Hove, and 400 were shown the door at 1.45am from another rave in a factory in Fonthill Road, Hove. Police took photographs of blocked fire doors and other safety hazards including old and dirty mattresses. Mr Cox said: “Each site had fire hazards and there were no safety provisions.
“Each venue was a potential death trap.
“In Ellen Street fire exits were boarded up, it waspitch dark in places and mattresses were on the floor.” Mr Cox said tickets at each venue were selling for £5 and organisers were making upwards of £500 a time. Some broke licensing laws by selling alcohol and there was evidence of drug-taking at one.He said electricity was being stolen and, at one location, damage was caused and there were complaints from neighbours about noise. He said: “We shall continue to take positive action against these illegal gatherings.” At all three locations, organisers were ordered to pack up their equipment or risk having it seized. No arrests were made, but Mr Cox said police inquiries were continuing.