BBC News – Friday, 4 January, 2002, 17:49 GMT
Farm leaders are calling on police to deal more effectively with illegal raves after two farmers were prevented from removing party-goers from their properties.
Police arrested an Essex farmer on Boxing Day when he tried to confront ravers who took over his barn for a party.
The National Farmers’ Union plans to investigate the incident, after a similar case in Lincolnshire on New Year’s Eve in which a farmer was stopped from evicting 70 ravers from his sheds.
Police said the 40-year-old Essex farmer, Graeme Stephen, from Great Dunmow, was arrested to prevent a public order disturbance.
An NFU spokeswoman said: “Where farmers are suffering from illegal raves, or from similar situations, we would urge the police to effectively police these events.
“It would seem an extraordinary way to deal with the situation.”
An Essex Police spokesman said police found up to 70 ravers in the barn at midnight being “confronted verbally by the barn owner”.
“After repeated attempts to calm the situation the officer arrested the barn owner for breach of the peace in the interests of public safety, fearing the situation was getting out of hand.,” he added.
Mr Stephen was taken to a police station and later released without charge.
He turned off a generator being used to power the event.
The farmer said the ravers had broken through a padlocked gate and the barn locks.
In reply to the NFU criticism Essex Police said: “The act only applies to raves held in the open air, this one was held in a barn.
The NFU spokeswoman said: “It is incredibly frustrating and distressing for anyone to have to stand by and watch their property being wrecked with no power to prevent it.
Simon Fisher, the NFU policy advisor for Lincolnshire, said the latest incidents had again highlighted the need for police to tackle the issue of rural policing.
Mr Benton is determined to defend his property
He said farmers were concerned that police could not respond to serious incidents in rural areas.
An organiser of the rave, who did not wish to be named, said: “If the council were to give us a barn out of the way to use we would use it, we would even go as far as to pay for it.”
The man, who has been organising raves in Essex for five years, said the venue was cleared up when the rave ended at 0900 GMT.
He insisted no padlocks had been broken to gain entry.
The police spokesman said the barn was not damaged.
Lincolnshire farmer David Benton, 44, said this week he was prepared to use violence to stop people breaking into his property and holding raves.
He issued the warning after claiming police stood by and did nothing when 100 ravers took over his sheds and held a loud New Year party.