Residents who fled three-day rave threaten to sue police
The Independent – 05 September 2000
Copyright: The Independent
A three-day rave that drove suburban residents to flee their homes ended yesterday, leaving behind mounds of smouldering debris as well as renewed concern over police resources. Days after the Metropolitan Police admitted that the Notting Hill Carnival was beyond its resources, the force was denounced for failing to move on the noisy New Age travellers who had invaded council-owned land in the royal borough of Kingston upon Thames.
“They took the line of least resistance, which was effectively giving them a licence to break the law,” said Keith Witham, a Conservative councillor. “The local residents and Kingston council are seething. The police weren’t willing or able to use the powers they have to move them on.”
Yesterday, as the last of 2,000 New Age travellers packed up their tents and sound systems, residents of the Tolworth area of south-west London said they would be demanding compensation, and councillors said they would be making representations to Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and the police authority.
The illegal party, promoted internationally via the internet, began on Friday when the event’s organisers arrived and used a mechanical digger to move mounds of earth deliberately put in place to deter travellers. The initial police presence was no match for the invading armies of dilapidated cars and buses.
By Friday night, locals were being subjected to thumping music audible for several miles. Many residents opted to move to hotels. Yesterday they were threatening legal action against the police to recoup their costs.
Mr Witham said they were furious that police were either unwilling or unable to help environmental health officers to enforce a noise abatement order, or to take action themselves under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Kingston policesaid that they were left with few option because they had only 12 officers on duty over the weekend. The travellers had threatened to move the rave to a venue in Kingston and “trash” the town centre if they were forced off land at Tolworth Court Farm.
Chief Superintendent Keith Free said yesterday: “We decided that because of the alternative site and given our available police resources, which meant we were severely outnumbered, it would not be appropriate to confront these people.The alternative was 2,000 people marauding around the streets of Kingston town centre.”
Yesterday Mr Witham said that the council would be complaining to the police authority about under-resourcing. “I appreciate such an event is beyond the resources of any local police division but they should be able to call on the Metropolitan Police as a whole.”
Rory Faulkner, a councillor and the chairman of Tolworth neighbourhood committee, said yesterday that residents had been outraged.
“The threats from the ravers of ‘trashing’ Kingston town centre if forced to move are despicable and it is a shame than none of these people will be punished for the damage they have done in Tolworth,” he said.
Bruce McDonald, chief executive of Kingston council, said: “Councillors will be making strenuous representations on behalf of residents to the Home Secretary to get this important issue addressed.”
However a police spokesman said later: “It was not a matter of shortage of officers. If a strategic decision had been made to move them off the site we would have sourced officers from elsewhere across London.