Peace and love in short supply as rave parties turn violent after police step in

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The Independent Online

Rural communities in Essex and Gloucestershire were last night recovering from a weekend of violence at illegal raves, leading to numerous arrests and injuries to 11 police officers.

As the outdoor festival season drew to a close, revellers at raves in Essex and the Cotswolds came to blows with police, after local forces stepped up measures to prevent the illegal parties from taking place.

On Saturday night, as police tried to break up an illegal rave involving up to 1,000 partygoers on farmland in Great Chesterford, Essex, missiles were thrown at police officers and a patrol car was burnt. Nine officers were injured, five receiving hospital treatment, and 35 arrests were made. One officer's finger was severed in the clash.

Chief Superintendent Graeme Bull, of Essex Police, said: "These sorts of raves are quite unheard of in this county - I have not seen this sort of violence since the old days of acid house, when we encountered such ferocity. Most people were happy and peaceful, it was a small minority. I think there was some kind of organisation among those who were violent."

The landowner, Robert Fairhead, had not given permission for the party and it had no entertainment licence. Mr Fairhead, in his late sixties, said he called the police after a local resident told him that revellers were gathering on his land. He said he had heard music the night before but did not realise it was coming from his own field of barley stubble.

Mr Fairhead, from Little Chesterford, said: "I only found out about it when I received a phone call. I wasn't very pleased about it. I heard music on Friday but I thought it was coming from somewhere else. I took a look and handed it over to the police.

"We haven't had problems before but I think there is always a concern they will return. It is right next to the motorway."

An Essex police spokesman said: "Police have powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to take positive action against such events. Public safety and upholding the law were paramount so Essex Police mounted a controlled operation to clear the site."

In another police raid early on Saturday morning, 30 police officers raided a rave party in a business park in Stroud, Gloucestershire. As fighting broke out, two officers were injured.

The old rave scene thrived in the late Eighties and early Nineties, fuelled by ecstasy and LSD. The 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act banned unauthorised parties of 10 or more people listening to music including "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats". But this summer has seen a revival of the rave scene, dominated by teenagers and people in their early twenties.

Judge Jules, a disk jockey who began his career playing at illegal raves, said that the weekend's violence could be put down to the policing: "The police seem to be being very heavy-handed. Open-air free parties will continue regardless. If anything, all it will do is draw attention and make the scene stronger."

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