A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Illegal rave at former Royal Mail building next to East Croydon station
15/06/2014 08:10:00


Just after 9pm last night, police attended the former Royal Mail building next to East Croydon station after receiving information that an illegal rave was going to take place. They found an estimated 200 people inside and a further 200-300 outside waiting to gain entry. As they sought to secure the building in an attempt to prevent further people from entering, the crowd outside rapidly increased to in excess of 1,000. The police requested and were promised additional officers from across London. However, the crowd continued to increase in size and missiles began to be thrown at the police, including fire extinguishers and masonry from the building.

I understand that at this point the commanding officer judged that his officers were at risk of serious injury and that with the promised reinforcements still on route he didn't have sufficient officers to prevent the crowd dispersing into Croydon town centre and potentially causing serious public disorder. Just before 11pm, he therefore decided to turn the building over to the crowd.

The incident is ongoing. Not only have those living in the immediate vicinity had to put up with noise all night but significant damage has been done to the building; buses and taxis are unable to access East Croydon; trams are not running east of East Croydon station; and once again Croydon is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Whilst I have every sympathy with the individual police officers who found themselves so outnumbered on the night, this is clearly wholly unacceptable. Once again as in 2011, the police didn't have sufficient manpower in place to put a stop to disorder. At the moment, their focus will obviously be on continuing to deal with the incident, but we need urgent answers to the following questions:

What measures had the owners of the building taken to secure it? I am told there were squatters in there this week - we don't yet know if they are responsible for organising the rave - and that the owners were arranging eviction.

Did the police have any prior intelligence that this event was going to take place? If so, why weren't more officers available?

Was any thought given to stopping trains calling at East Croydon to prevent the crowd from growing further?

Were additional police resources requested quickly enough and were they despatched quickly enough?

And do we now know who organised the event and if so can we have assurances that they will feel the full force of the law?

I will update this blog as and when I get more information.

UPDATE: I am told that everyone has now left the building. Work is now underway to clear up the mess and once this is complete tram, bus and taxi services can resume.

I have been amazed by some of the reactions to my call for those responsible for organising the event to feel the full force of the law. My Labour opponent at the next Election has accused me of being "too macho" and said "youth is about exploration, pushing boundaries, seeking out fun and moulding your personality". We are talking about an event that has caused significant criminal damage, left a number of people in hospital, caused huge disruption and damaged the town's reputation. How can someone who aspires to represent this town in Parliament think it is wrong to throw the book at those responsible? And it could have been so much worse. There was only one entrance to/exit from the venue - if there had been a fire or other emergency, we could have seen a number of fatalities. When people break into private property, damage it, disrupt the lives of those living nearby and endanger the lives of our young people, they should pay a price for doing so. That’s not a macho approach, it’s common sense.

UPDATE 16/6: I have just learnt that a 15 year-old boy from west London who attended the rave has died in hospital. The Croydon Advertiser is reporting that he drank from a bottle of beer containing ketamine. My thoughts are with his family at their tragic and unnecessary loss.

A 19 year-old boy who is believed to have drunk from the same bottle is seriously ill in hospital.

UPDATE 17/6: I now have at least partial answers to some of my questions.

What measures had the owners of the building taken to secure it?

The building is still owned by Royal Mail. There was no permanent security presence - they had employed someone to check the building every few hours. As soon as they were aware that there were squatters in the building, they contacted the police to ask them to assist their enforcement agents in removing the squatters immediately. When their agents tried to enter the building peacefully, they were met with physical threats and one of the security guards was injured (it is not clear whether anyone was arrested as a result). They applied for a court order to evict the squatters but such orders take some time to be granted.

Given events over the weekend, on Monday they sought an emergency court order to remove the squatters and this was granted. The squatters have now left the building and Royal Mail have made the site as secure as they can to try to prevent any further unauthorised access. They are also accelerating their plans to demolish the building.

Did the police have any prior intelligence that this event was going to take place?

The event was being advertised on Facebook. The police received intelligence including the proposed date and venue of the event on 5th June. I am told that the information was reviewed by an intelligence officer but no further action was taken. An internal review of how this intelligence was handled is underway. I am trying to find out how far up the chain of command this information was passed and if the police warned Royal Mail.

Was any thought given to preventing trains stopping at East Croydon to avoid the crowd building up?

The on-scene commander asked for trains to be prevented from stopping at East Croydon. This request was declined because of a fear that those trying to get to the rave would get off at the next station where there was no police presence and/or that there would be disorder on some train services.

Do we now know who organised the event and if so can we have assurances that they will feel the full force of the law?

The police are pursuing the organisers, those responsible for the criminal damage and those who supplied illegal drugs. The Croydon Advertiser is reporting that so far 14 people have been arrested.

Comment on this blog


Readers' Comments

On 15/06/2014 09:31:00 Mrs G wrote:
Amazes me that Croydon Council & police (indeed all Boroughs) don't have a plan in place for illegal gatherings of this type. Pool resources for the Boroughs, design and implement one plan? Employ and share the cost of just one risk consultant/Airmic qualified person to work for all. This may be in place already? If so where was plan and why wasn't it implemented? Regards
On 15/06/2014 10:55:00 R Stotz wrote:
I was on a train from London Bridge to Brighton, arriving in East Croydon around 11:10pm last night. Couldn't figure out why there were so many youngsters (many of them no older than 15 years old) on the train, getting off until we arrived at East Croydon to see this heaving mass of adolescents and police officers between the station and the old post office. Nowhere did I see anyone in the station - police or station staff - seeming the slightest bit concerned about the droves of people arriving by train. Unfortunately, after falling 'victim' to the illegal occupancy & subsequent rave in an empty office block next to my home last year, I see this as just the beginning of worse to come - particularly as Croydon is in the beginning stages of massive redevelopment, including commercial conversions which are often left vacant for a period of time without the appropriate level of security. I can see this happening again at at least 3 other buildings on the High Street that are currently earmarked or slowly being converted but being left without security in place.

What will be done to stem further events like this happening? Wouldn't it be wise if the Council put in place a monitoring system or restrictions on the current commercial to residential conversions (in the form of developers & building owners requiring planning permission & the stipulation of on site security)?

Even though it would have meant me having a travel nightmare to get home last night, it would have been better if East Croydon station had been shut down completely, or at least had a level of police presence that was turning these ravers away as they arrived. Further coordination with other boroughs & stations could also have seen police presence stemming the flow of these groups of youngsters even boarding the trains to Croydon from London Bridge, London Victoria, etc...

On 15/06/2014 11:10:00 Mr s wrote:
They have noticed that they can get away with this once it will happen again, a total disrespect for others who wanted to use croydon to go out legally have fun & a few drinks etc.. No amount of police could have stopped this. This obviously has been planned in advance. I think they chose this date bearing in mind that everyone would be travelling to pubs to watch the football knowingly that it would cause problems
On 15/06/2014 11:13:00 Grahame wrote:
If I may say so, you ask important questions.

I had thought "raves" of this kind were a thing of the past. Not so, it appears.

Clearly good intelligence (including of course information received) is a good start and I feel sure that the incident will be examined and lessons learned. I am of the view that good co-ordination and co-operation between all responsible agencies is necessary. My understanding is that generally-speaking contingency plans do exist but of course these do need regular updating. Now would be a good time.

From what you have been given to understand, this was indeed a major incident with both serious health and safety and law and order implications for all concerned: those attending, the police, local residents and so on.

This incident does nothing to improve the reputation of Croydon as a good place to live, work, shop or do business.

On 15/06/2014 11:45:00 Nick Bailey wrote:
Gavin, this does raise serious questions, have we learnt nothing from the riots? To hear that the police had to stand down is very worrying, this should have been tackled with force.
On 15/06/2014 12:03:00 Tony Martin wrote:
This is the problem with a police service policing by consent, Criminals who do not consent can simply tell the police to ‘jolly well go away’. Croydon suffered the riots of 2011 (also referred to as an uprising by Carol Duggan) and in July last year Antifa were allowed to block the pavement along the Wellesley road for around 2 hours.

The law should be enforced by a police force and those who do not consent should be reprimanded, whether that be a talking to, a fine or arrest and prosecution.

On 15/06/2014 12:10:00 Jim wrote:
Here we go again. Surrender to the hooligans. Police show up, more yobs turn up, police surrender. Health and Safety? Watching brief? Our police have become a laughing stock. Nothing has been learnt since last time.

Once again, a public service fails to serve the public. The country is out of control. I wonder how many crimes will be recorded in respect of this event? No doubt the statistics will continue to look great.

We should have pumped tear gas in. Plastic bullets would have been useful too.

And no, we shouldn't have stopped trains from stopping at East Croydon. Why should the normal law abiding public be inconvenienced because of yobbery?

How many still locked up after the last riots? Not enough, I'm sure. I doubt whether many will be locked up this time either.

Very angry about this.

On 15/06/2014 14:55:00 Rob wrote:
This is another example of the problems caused by HALF the constables in the Met living outside Greater London rather than in the area they are responsible for policing. Clearly, the Met did not have the resources to deal with this, thereby facilitating serious public disorder. Hardly a surprise that this was planned for the night of an England game in Brazil. These lawbreakers are a lot more intelligent than the Met. Did the Met not anticipate that lawbreakers would take advantage of the nights of England games? Clearly not. The issue is not preventing trains from stopping at East Croydon - thereby screwing up life for law-abiding commuters - but the Met doing the job it is paid to do.
On 15/06/2014 15:09:00 Des wrote:

Just 2 words WATER CANNON.

This would have been a great time to show these people that break the law with these illegal gatherings, we will not tolerate this.

Away with the police service and bring back the Police FORCE.

On 15/06/2014 15:36:00 Stephen wrote:
Raves have always been a challenge for the police in London, more so in rural areas where staffing is much lower. Calling for reinforcements from other areas isn't as easy as it sounds - staff numbers and logistical issues, and the fact that the officers need to be public order trained - means that denuding other areas on a busy evening (World Cup, Saturday, warm summer).

As a London MP. you obviously support he reduction in London Police; over 1400 officers fewer according to the HMIC. while I'm non-political I'm sure voters will take this, and the continual attacks on the police by the Tory party generally, into account next year when voting. Now that you're not paying for the Federation posts I'm sure they will feel free to advise anyone who is a member of the current and retired Police family to vote for anyone but the Tories - over 1.5 million people (current, retired, partners, parents, children, etc etc).

Disappointed that your focus was on what the police did or didn't do, not on how cuts may have been responsible. Croydon residents aren't stupid - they will see through the bluster.

On 15/06/2014 15:46:00 Steve C wrote:
On the other side of the borough, in South Norwood, where we have big problems with agggressive and intimidating gangs of youths on the housing estates, there is a buzz going around today like they sense it's a good opportunity to rise up again.
On 15/06/2014 17:35:00 Valerie Clements wrote:
Dear Gavin Barwell. Needless to say, I'm shocked to learn from you of the awful incident that took place at East Croydon last night. I'm sorry too, that you will have to be giving up much of your precious time to help in dealing with this. You have my sympathy!
On 15/06/2014 17:44:00 Adam Kellett wrote:
A very sad day for policing in London. The Met have sent out a clear message: "Turn up in sufficient numbers and we will be intimidated". For every challenging situation there is however an opportunity, in this case to try out Boris's new water canon.
On 15/06/2014 20:11:00 JH wrote:
You are asking questions of the police...

"Were additional police resources requested quickly enough and were they despatched quickly enough? For many of my constituents, this incident will have uncomfortable parallels with the 2011 riots where officers quickly found themselves wholly outnumbered."

in case you haven't realised it was a saturday night, police resources are stretched beyond belief due to cuts in numbers and funding! add in a small thing called the world cup and the government letting pubs stay open late with all day drinking meaning more drunken people taking up vital resources... where do you magic up these extra police resources? There are none! the cupboard is bare thanks to the cuts!

On 16/06/2014 13:14:00 Bill wrote:
Why didn't the police use tazers and CS gas? Some armed officers on show and a warning shot or two would have probably worked. Shut East Croydon station until they can show us that this won't happen again!
On 16/06/2014 14:12:00 Chris wrote:

I heartily agree with the previous comments...it seems we haven't learnt anything in (nearly) three years. What is going to be done about, amongst others, Tabberner House, Delta Point and Green House now that they all seem to vacant and up for demolishing??

On 17/06/2014 11:37:00 Mrs R wrote:
I can't believe that water cannons or rubber bullets were not used! We have had the riots and now these kids feel like they have the power to do as they please in our town!

My son told me a FB event went out to notify people of this and that the police had prior notice that this was going to happen! Why did they not stop this before it happened? This is not the first, this event apparently is happening everywhere,a area is sent out to people so they gather there and then wait for the location. Faith in the police is going down!

On 17/06/2014 21:07:00 Mr F wrote:
The comparisons between this and the riots is absolutely farcial. Tear Gas and Rubber bullets? Really? The two events could not be further apart. The intent of of the rioters was beyond comprehension. Absolute vermin with the intent to steal, pillage and commit arson with little consequence for the public welfare other than their own self interest. Saturday was about youngsters doing what youngsters have done for generations. Getting together and having a good time.

Im 37 and came back from Brixton about 1:30am. And saw the rave going on. I couldn't resist going in. Which I did legally, as the police were allowing people in. I went in with some intrepidation. Given there looked like there had been some earlier disorder. Inside was one of the most friendly atmosphere's that you would have found anywhere. Better than you get in licenced establishments in our town centre or any town centre.. I'd estimate that there were around 1200 in there. I stood out a mile, given my age the hostility was zero. I could have been a police stooge. And there were three entrance/exit points.

Trust a, detached from reality, Tory councillor to create public panic. There really is none. It was a one off event and Croydon was a vessel for it. Nothing more. They came, they raved, they left. Its like trying to blame Facebook for paedophilia crime. Facebook is just a vessel that the wrong doers use.

And ill go on record to say that anyone who peddles Ketamin should be locked up. It is a fashionable but dangerous substance. You need to promote education and awareness of it. AND NOT SCORE POLITICAL POINTS by creating public panic. That should be the main issue here.

The rave happened because the intelligence failed. Police know what happens at raves and what the intentions of those in attendance are. After it reached a certain attendance level they tried to contain it. Their failure was the panic button for the riot police to turn up in the first place. A friendly crowd turned hostile.

Regards, a law-abiding citizen, croydon resident for 37 years and tax payer.

On 18/06/2014 13:11:00 Anthony Miller wrote:
"youth is about exploration, pushing boundaries, seeking out fun and moulding your personality" There was me wasting my time dealing with landlords, pub chains and Business Investment Districts and it seems all I needed to do was simply take over an empty office and flog people booze and tickets illegally
On 18/06/2014 13:13:00 Anthony Miller wrote:
"This is the problem with a police service policing by consent" Surely the Peelian concept of Policing by Consent died when the Police got direct graduate recruitment and Crime Commissioners
On 18/06/2014 18:24:00 Mrs mull wrote:
I think the police did the right thing in preventing chaos in the forced dispersal of a large crowd of kids. Kids who were after all looking for somewhere to party. Difficult but sensible decision I say as an east Croydon resident.

The problem is with the system of managing trespassers /squatters, the law as usual delays everything and renders the police passive... The police are law enforcers - blame the law makers!

Don't go looking for a scapegoat in the police.

On 19/06/2014 08:29:00 Grahame wrote:
"Did the police have any prior intelligence that this event was going to take place?

The event was being advertised on Facebook. The police received intelligence including the proposed date and venue of the event on 5th June. I am told that the information was reviewed by an intelligence officer but no further action was taken. An internal review of how this intelligence was handled is underway. I am trying to find out how far up the chain of command this information was passed and if the police warned Royal Mail".

In my view, we do need an answer to this simply to assess existing procedures and to consider whether or not any changes are necessary.

Do the police have any intelligence of any illegal raves planned in the Borough for this coming weekend? If so, what action is being taken?




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