In 1994, parties across the country were criminalised by the passing of the Criminal Justice Act. The hugely controversial Act was a response to the government’s displeasure at rave culture and all that it entailed, not least the raves themselves (sections 63 to 66 are entitled ‘powers in relation to raves.)

Where s.63 applies to outdoor parties of more than 20 people, the present Government’s rules are somewhat closer to home- literally. A student in Nottingham was issued with a fixed penalty notice on Friday night after a visit from Police. He had held a party which was attended by more than 50 people, which resulted the fixed penalty notice, in the princely sum of £10,000. The student has since written to his neighbours to profusely apologise.

The new rules are of course a response to a public health crisis rather than a supposed public order issue, but they still criminalise certain types of action. The new limits mean that:-

  • The number of people allowed to meet socially is limited to six. This applies in a private and public setting, so in households as well as pubs and bars. It does not remove the ability to socialise at the pub, but the one metre rule should still be observed;
  • You do not need to worry if you already live in a household of more than six people- nobody has to leave! You can gather indoors or out, but this must be restricted to those who live at the property;
  • The Police have already been intervening where breaches have been identified and they can continue breaking up gatherings in this way. Anyone attending such a gathering can be fined £100 in the first instance, with the amount doubling on each further offence to a maximum of £3,200.00

Organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people, like the Nottingham student, can still be fined as he was.

The motivation in 2020 is a public health emergency rather than a cultural movement, but the appetite for enforcement is no different. There is pressure upon the authorities to penalise rulebreakers, though there may well be a different set of rules for them to enforce before the week is out given the amount of new law since lockdown.

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