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£10k fines won’t bother UK’s gun-toting, drug-dealing rave organisers: They’ve adapted to ‘new normal’ more profitably than anyone

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
£10k fines won’t bother UK’s gun-toting, drug-dealing rave organisers: They’ve adapted to ‘new normal’ more profitably than anyone
Criminal gangs are now organising their own illegal events where they peddle drugs to music fans, making money while the rest of the economy tanks. And new penalties introduced by the government are unlikely to deter them.

Just like Covid-19, organised crime is a clever virus. When it faces an obstacle in its path, it simply adapts to the circumstances and continues on its way, finding a new host that will allow it to thrive.

So we have the raft of illegal raves taking place across the UK every weekend that, like the heads of the Hydra, simply redouble elsewhere when one is shut down. PM Boris Johnson would probably use his favoured Whack-A-Mole analogy here, but hey, let’s give the Greeks this one.

Unlicensed music events, often complete with catering, toilets and bars that you would expect to find at the usual festivals that normally take place at this time of year, are used as a front for flogging illegal substances to music fans.

Drug kingpins are even bankrolling these festival-sized events, not out of some appreciation for the music played there - although they do pay the DJs - but because those who attend are a reliable customer base for the sale of cocaine, weed, ecstasy and ketamine from which they make their money.

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They make no bones about enforcing these raves either as firearms, once considered a rarity in the UK, start to appear more and more. And what is a gun if you’re not prepared to use it? While police reported violent crime up 5.7 percent in July as compared to the same month last year, the discharge of illegal weapons, at 40 reports, was nearly double that of July 2019.

The link between drugs, violent crime and guns is all too clear. As the National Crime Authority’s head of firearms response, Matt Perfect said: “Illicit commodities are becoming more prevalent, the supply and demand of illicit commodities is becoming more prevalent and then this unfortunate spike in gun crime. I would make a professional judgment that the two are tied together.”

Ordinarily, drug dealers can be found skulking in among the crowd at the scores of legal, star-studded festivals held across Britain and Europe over summer. But they’ve hit a bit of an obstacle: the coronavirus lockdown put paid to any big music events in 2020 and their customers were all shut up indoors. With so many legal festivals scrapped across the country this summer, they don’t want to be left out of pocket when it’s time to settle up. 

But as the police keep finding out, the organisers of the raves are criminal gangs. They don’t care about Covid-19 or public health warnings. They sell drugs.

All they have to do is adapt to the new market conditions now in place because of the coronavirus pandemic and they will still make money. And a lot of it. If that means that, in order to sell their catalogue of illegal substances, they need to put on a bit of a party, hire a DJ and get some food and booze in, then so be it. Party on!

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Belatedly, the government has decided to crack down on the organisers of the illegal raves, just before the August Bank Holiday, which is normally the date set for both the massively popular Notting Hill Carnival and Reading Festival. But it’s unlikely the penalties will deter drugs gangs in the slightest.

The £10,000 fine they face for holding one of these events is, frankly, chickenfeed, compared to the massive profits to be raked in from the sale of mind-altering chemicals to partygoers.

The numbers attending the unlicensed events held over the summer so far have been huge. In Manchester on one weekend in June, more than 6,000 people partied at just two raves and in London, the Met Police say they’ve had to raid more than 1,000 events in the last two months.

But to what effect? In my neck of the woods, an unlicensed event, widely advertised via Facebook, was held at a local park recently, complete with sound system, barbecue and more than 100 music fans in attendance for a full Sunday afternoon into the evening. Inquisitive passers-by were told the event was a birthday celebration. It wasn’t.

However, when the police turned up, the DJ gave the signal and the entire crowd burst into “Happy Birthday”. The police left, having given the “birthday party” the all-clear.

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So when Home Secretary Priti Patel says, “These gatherings are dangerous and those who organise them show a blatant disregard for the safety of others,” it is hard to keep a straight face.

While the group that ran the event in my neighbourhood are harmless, genuine music lovers, does the Home Secretary really believe that a £10,000 fine and a few stern words from her will deter an organised criminal gang? Or that the threat of a £100 fine is enough to give pause to those prepared to break the social distancing rules in return for some live music?

The minimal threat these penalties represent means the drugs gangs are now heading for a Bank Holiday weekend of bumper profits. Where lockdown has been eased, and that includes right across London, people will be out looking for a good time before bidding summer farewell, without giving face masks and hand sanitiser a second thought. 

There will, of course, be those looking for a bit of extra stimulus and drug-dealing criminals are only too happy to oblige. Like any virus, they know how to adapt to survive and because of that, their illegal enterprises are among the few to prove immune to this year’s unwelcome, invisible killer.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a push to suggest that business is actually booming.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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