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Tuesday December 01

Devils Dyke 'rave' finishes

26 May 2014

The open-air music event near Devils Dyke finished during the early hours of Monday morning, 26 May.

There was a noticeable decrease in numbers, and sound systems, as people left the area from about midnight and by 7am on Monday, there was nobody left and just one car, which had broken down. About 90% of the rubbish had been collected into bags and left at the site by those leaving, assisting collection by the landowner.

During Sunday police had set up road blocks to help prevent further people arriving, and we believe this, together with social media messaging drawing attention to the road blocks, had an impact on numbers and on the event winding down earlier than might otherwise have been the case.

As vehicles left the area, breath tests were carried out on drivers, and did not result in any arrests.

There have been seven arrests; five for drugs offences, one for being unfit to drive and for a drug offence, and one for failing to comply with a direction to leave the area. Only one of the drugs arrests was on the site itself.

We are also carrying out an investigation into the organisation of the event to see what offences may have been committed. This will include liaison with Mid-Sussex Environmental Health over the issue of noise pollution.

We had begun to receive reports of the event from 1am on Sunday and overnight it was assessed that due to the darkness, rain, and numbers present, it was not appropriate or practical to attempt to close the gathering safely.

At it height on Sunday we estimated that some 2000 people were present, with up to seven sound systems and about 400 vehicles.

We therefore took action to limit further access and there have been no reports of disorder, or injury.

A number of calls were received from nearby residents in Poynings and Saddlescombe during Sunday, complaining about noise and the serious distress this event was causing them.

During Sunday officers re-assured local residents that action was being taken to contain the gathering, to limit further attendance, and to seek to minimise the impact on them. We very much sympathise with their concerns and have done everything we can in the circumstances.

Officers were on the site during the day and the gathering was good humoured but very noisy.

Although there are powers available to the police to close down illegal gatherings such as this, before exercising these powers an assessment has to be undertaken to determine whether or not such a gathering can be closed down safely and effectively. The assessment was that it would not be possible or safe to close the event down, given the number of police officers available,but a police presence at the location was maintained and active measures were taken to seek to prevent it escalating further.

Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones said; "Such gatherings are unlicensed, illegal parties often held on land which is not owned by the organisers. These raves can cause a huge amount of disruption to local residents and damage to the land.

"Where we can we will attend a report at the earliest opportunity to try to bring it to a safe conclusion. When a large number of people are already at the site it is not always possible for us to shut down the rave safely with the police resources available at that time.

"However we will always take action to contain the event, to reassure local residents, and work with partners, such as the National Trust in this case, to minimise the impact."


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