Opinion: House Party Organiser in Devizes Issued with £10,000 Fine

Daniel Jae Webb reports for Wiltshire 999s that the organiser of the house party, in Wick Lane, Devizes on Friday night, has been issued a £10,000 fine by Wiltshire Police, for ignoring a police warning.

Officers were called to the house and requested the party was be shut down in line with COVID-19 regulations, and claims their pleas were ignored. A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said, (which I’ve had to amend the basic grammar of, like a primary school teacher): “As we continue to navigate through the COVID pandemic, we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions and adhere to the regulations.”

“Despite a warning, the organiser allowed the gathering of 80-100 people to continue, which is in clear breach of the current restrictions. Which states that ‘no gathering of more than 30 people may take place indoors, which would constitute a rave, if it were outdoors; amplified music, at night and due to loudness, duration and time it would likely cause significant distress to locals.”

Partygoers were dispersed and the hefty fine was issued. It’s a substantial amount for anyone to digest, the website stated, “there is no discretion given to set a lower amount.” Job done police, story dusted and archived. In my opinion, though, I’m afraid it feels far from over and arguably raises a number of questions.

I feel impelled ask then, firstly, was it shut down for safety reasons, due to the pandemic, or as the Wiltshire Police spokesman clearly states here, “amplified music at night would likely cause significant distress to locals?”

I cannot help but agree in this era of the pandemic we all must consider the risks and act accordingly, but the environment must be attained for people to want to do this, and take action appropriately, rather than feel they are being forced by law. Yes, the organiser and everyone who attended was putting their own health and the health of others at risk, and were foolish to do so. And when the officers attempted to engage with the group, they should have taken heed. Yet they should have wanted to do this of their own free will.

The harder the law, the more likely the rebellion toward it, though it may be important for the law to be enforced, an unaffordable fine such as this is draconian. It’s likely to have an adverse effect from the youth, who understandably see their lives disrupted in the same manner as everyone else, yet with no clear indication of ideas are being pitched to support them.

We’re casting our children out into the riskiest easing of lockdown ruling since it began, by returning them to school and college, and though you may deem it necessary, can you not also see they must feel like lab rats?

From all ancient philosophies and all of history we see a continuous pattern; people wishing to gather and celebrate is ingrained in our psyche and culture. And let’s face it, the conservative ethos set to stamp out partying long before this pandemic.

The breakup of the trend of the free festival scene in the eighties, only constituted a bigger problem to attempt to outlaw, the raves in the nineties. Retrospective youth cultures we can reflect back on now, and realise and agree the occurrences of these events were not only ground-breaking for artistic progression, and memorable for the attendees, but in reality, harmless fun.

Regulating and eventual normalising of the Criminal Justice Bill, saw something far worse; a political and social rejection of society, and a fight between police and people; a disgruntled conflict.

The psychological effect of lockdown is only just beginning to be felt, as we venture away from it. You feel isolation for the elderly was difficult, how was it for our younger generation who, by the illusion of timespan, six months feels far longer? The need in younger people to party must be recognised, as I’d imagine older generations reflect upon their youth misdoings. Rather we’re stamping our authority around and closing individual cases with a pat on the back and a job well done. We should, as a society in the dawn of change, be considering how we can arrange and organise celebratory events and parties sensibly and safely.

We have managed to adopt and implement new systems for shopping, for eating out, travel, and all other activities older generations wish to engage in, we should now focus on ways to keep the younger satisfied too. I don’t profess to have the answers, but believe by thinking together, and frankly, giving a hoot about our entire population, we can work out methods to accomplish it. Furthermore, if ideas were suggested and implemented so parties could go ahead safely, the need and want to break the law will surely lessen.

Break up the party, yes indeed, as we’re far from out of the water, but chuck people a paddle. They need a release; they need party and celebrate now more than ever in these trying times. If not, issue 10k fines to all who break the regulations; every grandad who forgets and leans over you in a supermarket, every businessman internationally jetting around the world, anyone, I dunno, who felt like driving across the country during lockdown to visit a castle, perhaps?

Help Pewsey Mum on her Campaign to free her Children from Abduction

So, Devizine exists to highlight and promote local events and I try my best, apart from the odd bit of cheeky satire, to steer away from political matters. Yet I’m both heartbroken and at a loss for words this afternoon, chatting online to Pewsey mum, Tanya Borg. But within it, there is an event I need to let you know about, in this horrid mess, please read on….

Tanya’s two daughters, Angel and Maya were abducted by their father five years ago, and taken to Libya to live with his family. After being granted full custody in both nations, Tanya travelled to Libya to rescue them, but Tanya explains when they tried to get away, they were bundled in a car and driven away. She hasn’t seen or had contact with them since.

Red tape between the Crown Prosecution Service and Wiltshire Police has prevented further action from being taken, and under advice of the CPS, Wiltshire Police have closed the case. “The CPS are saying they don’t tell the police what to do,” Tanya explained, “But Wiltshire Police are saying the CPS don’t want to take the case.” I cannot imagine how distraught she must be. “You have no idea,” Tanya continued, “Angry. Frustrated. Sad. My daughters need help.”

In fear for the treatment of her daughters, Tanya went to explain how, after a court order for joint custody, their grandmother wouldn’t allow them to leave the house, so Tanya tried for full custody, but they ran away with the children. Angel is now twenty, and Maya just eight. A Daily Mail article exposes the issue, with a video of the father’s family driving them away. It is with hope the video will pressure British authorities to reopen the case.

This is where I asked if Tanya had or has any further contact with them, and the short answer was “no.” In England we complain about this, whinge about that, the bus being delayed etc, we really don’t understand how life is in Libya. “Because there is no authorities inside Libya, due to the situation, as Libya is at war with itself,” Tanya detailed, “it is dangerous, and that is their excuse, but now there has been a newly elected government, they could at least try, that is what is most upsetting, they haven’t even tried. I feel like my children don’t matter, because I am not of status.”

Firstly, Tanya has a GoFundMe campaign page, where you can contribute. “It’s a corrupt country, and money talks,” she explains, “I can’t do anything without it.” Tanya has spoken to Claire Perry, who passed it onto the Minister of the African Department, “which say,” Tanya claimed, “They cannot do anything.” MP Danny Kruger has been emailed, which was my first port-of-call, and we await a response.

Tanya plans to take a protest to Downing Street on the 8th August, but has also staged an event in Pewsey on the 25th July. Meeting at the Cooper’s Arms at 3pm, the protest will follow the eminent carnival route. “My eldest daughter,” Tanya explained, “was carnival princess back in 2011.” They will be chanting “Free Angel and Maya,” but ask protesters observe social distancing and wear facemasks. “I would love as many people to attend and support,” she hopes, “to help me bring my babies home.” Tanya will also be organising a local coach for the Downing Street protest.

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A Local Look at Knife Crime

Navigating my footing becoming trickier as guy-ropes criss-crossed my path midst the shadowy maze of tents, still I chased. For reasoning I need not go into, the pursued managed to grab two twenty-pound notes from my wallet, one of which I snatched back, the other he made off with. The fleeting moment had gone from bad to worse, at this huge, anarchic festival. Now I was alone, chasing this kid. He had encouraged me not to follow, threatened to “carve me up.” I doubted his word; “carve me up,” over a score?

The notion arrived at my frontal lobe when he abandoned escape, turned to flash a blade at me. It only registered once I was an inch away, and he took a swing with the knife, then, thankfully, I took heed of common sense; wasn’t worth twenty quid. I backed off; he ran. He got a note off me; sucks, but I kept my life.

Reminiscing this feels like a movie, you know, where the hero escapes with seconds to spare; utterly thoughtless to have taken it that far, there’s no reruns in real life, no alternative ending. I find myself contemplating the what ifs, in this era where knife crime is rife, so the media informs us. I stagger at the whole stupidity of it, worry for youth, in times of desperation, economic slump, taking to the streets armed is a sad reality.

To those who adopt this philosophy, look at my pitiful example of yore; you’re not a “playa,” not doing anything fresh, nothing gallant or outrageous, zilch “gangsta” pal, just foolhardiness you cannot, and will not see as such until you get wise, or on a hospital bed.

Least, I speculate, should think ourselves lucky in Wiltshire, where by comparison I believe the chances of being a victim of knife crime is way less. But how much less, and is it on the increase? What would happen to me if I was caught with a knife in Wiltshire? I thought I’d hassle Wiltshire Police’s PC Paul Woodbridge for answers. If you do take a knife out to play, maybe you couldn’t care less what the police have to say. Yeah, alright, you’re free to skip the interview part, but I beg you scroll to the conclusion under the line.

Now, the Salisbury Journal reported in January that Wiltshire is bucking the trend of increasing knife crime, and ours has gone down recently, The Swindon Advertiser ran a similar article, but back in April last year it reported precisely the opposite: “Stats show Wiltshire knife crime up 214 per cent in five years.” So, after an increase, it seems the rate is dropping locally. I asked Paul how this reflects on the knowledges of the police on the streets?

“I’m not sure where your stats come from but you may be referring to some PA figures released recently which show a hike between 2013 and 2018,” he explained. “If that’s the case then the explanation is that our recording of knife crimes has improved in that time along with more people coming forward to report such crimes, thanks to the increased publicity around this issue. Overall, our knife crime figures show Wiltshire is a safe place to live; the statistics show knife crime has dropped by 18% across the county in the past year (Sept ’17 to Sept ’18) but we won’t ever rest on our laurels, and will firmly deal with anyone who we find carrying a knife.”

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The assumption is violent crime, particularly knife-crime is predominantly a city problem, how much better does our market towns like Devizes, Marlborough and Melksham compare to our larger towns and cities, like Salisbury and Swindon? “By the nature of population sizes,” PC Woodbridge clarified, “and generally speaking, smaller towns do not experience the same extent of crimes as larger towns and cities.”

Yet though I’ve been planning this article for a while now, only this morning a post on a Devizes Facebook group claimed their son was attacked by youth with a knife, and was cut across the face.

What would PC Woodbridge advise if you’re threatened with a knife? Or is this a no-brainer; I mean, I’d run, right? But what if you’re cornered? Does he think self-defence classes are a good thing? “As you said, the best advice is always to run and get help.” He continued, “get somewhere public where lots of people are, if possible, and call the police on 999. Self-defence classes are down to personal preference, but I would always look to put as much distance between me and the knife as I could.”

I wanted to gage PC Woodbridge on the wonky ethos of carrying a knife for protection, what would he say to those who do? “Statistics show that that those who carry knives are much more likely to be injured than those who don’t. Carrying a knife does not make someone safer and you will be arrested if caught with an illegal knife and not a good reason to be carrying it. You could then face time in prison.”

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What about armistice in a town like Devizes? What would happen to you, what would be the process if you walked into the police station and handed over a knife? PC Woodbridge explained, “if you were to hand in a knife then we would take your details and provided there had been no offences committed, then it would be disposed of. Don’t forget in September last year we had a countywide knife amnesty as part of Wiltshire Police’s knife crime campaign, Op Sceptre, where up to 500 knives were handed in to police stations across the county and disposed of safely. We will plan other amnesties in the future.”

I asked him, what else can we do to raise awareness and promote knife crime safety? “Information and education are paramount. Our recent Op Sceptre campaign has been very successful. During a week earlier in March, we spoke to people and gave out leaflets to underline the message: ‘No knife, safer life.’ We also do a large social media and media campaign. Search for ‘Op Sceptre’ to see what was covered.”

“Op Sceptre may be over for now,” PC Woodbridge continued, “but our work doesn’t stop, we’re never complacent about knife crime and I want to remind everyone that we will respond to any intelligence and information given to us by the public; knife crime can affect anyone. We also continue working with schools and colleges to keep the safety and educational messages in the public domain.”

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Wiltshire Police Website


 

So, that’s what the police said, but with all due respect to PC Woodbridge, and though I’m grateful for his time, I’d wager the ones we really need to reach out to have skipped past this, don’t care for the what the police have to say. So, I reply, okay, fair enough, for now, to hell with the police, it’s just me and you here talking, right? I don’t write like the standard press, out to make money. Readers expect an honest review, so I write from the heart. Take the start of this piece for example, journalists never open on a real personal incident, okay?

I know, understand and appreciate the world may’ve dealt you a shit card. Maybe your folks did a shit job at being parents, maybe you reckon this government are selfish, backstabbing bastards, and I’d say, yeah, you’re right, mate. Must be loads guilty for how crap your life is; but the thing is, it doesn’t matter who you’d like to point the finger to, when you choose to go out and take a knife, no one is to blame in that instance, but YOU.

It is your decision. If a government doesn’t want anarchy through poverty, why would it apply pressure through consistent service and educational cuts, when the magic money tree exists? I don’t know; maybe because it’s hidden in a walled garden. They pick it for funding war, bailing themselves out by buying votes, and lavish luncheons. I swear, it’s what they want you to do, takes the pressure off them. Channel your anger at them, see? By taking a knife to some kid who maybe dissed you out of tenner, may be shagging your girlfriend, or not paid you for that eighth, taking your frustration out on any Joe Bloggs, you’re playing into their hand. I’d even go as far as saying, alright, we live in the real world; bods mug each other off, and if so, if has to come to it, take it out with fisticuffs.

The vicious cycle is that you take out a knife, and they need to take out a knife, and she needs to take out a knife and everyone’s taking out a fucking knife. Break that cycle, or, simply, someone is going to get killed, if not you, them, but shit, you’re still gonna do time for it. That is pointless and damn right stupid.

Thank you to PC Woodbridge for his valuable time, I’m not one to say if this will make everyone stop and think about it, but if just one does, that’s one life saved.

 

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