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Hertfordshire Police have intervened to prevent a metal detecting rally going ahead on Sunday [4 October 2020] allegedly in breach of Covid-19 regulations. The rally, which was promoted by an informally organised metal detecting group called “Pink Wellies”, was due to take place on the same farm where the group organised an identical event which was closed down by the police last Sunday [27 September 2020] on the same grounds.

An e-mail sent by Hertfordshire Police to Pink Wellies organiser Zoe Williams, yesterday [Friday 2 October 2020] and seen by thePipeLine, stated that the event advertised by Ms Williams, which was due to take on land belonging to Wisbridge Farm at the village of Reed in Hertfordshire, was not covered by any exemptions included in the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.2) (England) Regulations 2020.

The Police noted that,

“Under Reg 5 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.2) (England) Regulations 2020, it is illegal for a person to take part in a gathering of more than 6 people unless an exemption applies. The rule of 6 came into effect on 14 September.”

The e-mail then explained that exemptions to the regulations, including the rule of six, are available, for example to registered businesses and charities, which may be licenced by a local authority as long as there is strict compliance with the current Covid-19 regulations and advice.

However, checks with Companies House and the Charities Commission shows there appears to be no entity registered under the name “Pink Wellies” which is linked to any of the known organisers of the event, including Ms Williams.

This discovery appears to be confirmed by another social media post in which Ms Williams stated,

“Pink Wellies is not, nor has ever been, nor has it advertised itself as a company.”

This absence of any recognised corporate structure which could be licensed for a public event as an exempt body, explains, almost certainly, why the e-mail stated that, in the view of Hertfordshire Police,

“Your proposed event is not excepted as you do not hold a licence from a public body to carry on the activity.”

The police added,

“Please do not organise this event.
Please engage with the police to maintain public compliance with the Coronavirus Regulations.”

The e-mail concluded with a warning that any breaches of Covid regulations would be dealt with by the police, including by enforcement actions which might lead to the maximum in fines and to prosecution.

Under the latest Covid regulations fines for organising illegal events can be as much as £10,000, while for anyone over eighteen years old simply participating in such an event could result in a fixed penalty notice of £200 [£100 if paid within 14 days], rising to £400 for a second offence, and doubling with each subsequent offence to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offenders.

Reports from participants at the previous Pink Wellies rally at Wisbridge Farm, which were published on social media, describe at least five police vehicles arriving at around 9am on Sunday morning 27 September, soon after the event started. Officers then proceeded to ask the organisers to close the event down.

As many as one hundred and fifty detectorists are understood to have expressed interest in attending that event. However, allowing for people who expressed interest, but who did not then arrive to take part, it is likely the actual number present on the site when the Police arrived was fewer.

thePipeLine understands that the Police were responding to complaints about the event which did not come from within the Pink Wellies group itself.

There are currently no reports of penalty notices being issued in relation to the 27 September event.

In responses published on social media Ms Williams disagreed strongly with the view of Hertfordshire Police stating that, she believed, the interpretation of the Covid-19 regulations by the Police was not correct and the event was legal, had official permission from North Hertfordshire Council in place and could go ahead.

However, she was not able to quote a licence, nor any legal authority to that effect and the National Council for Metal Detecting, the largest body representing UK metal detectorists, also advises members that only a registered business or a charity set up for exclusively charitable purposes, can currently organise an event. Aside from not being a business that definition of a charity would also exclude apparently casually organised groups like Pink Wellies, even if such a group had made donations to charities and good causes as Pink Wellies has done in the past.

A further post, published on Friday evening [2 October 2020] by Ms Williams confirmed that this Sunday’s event was, in fact, cancelled.

The intervention by the police comes amid reports of other metal detecting rallies being visited by local police forces, with at least one other event being closed down in recent weeks.

Metal detectorists contacted by thePipeLine have expressed concern that in attempting to run large rally type events, while the Covid-19 pandemic remains uncontrolled, rally organisers risk bringing the hobby into disrepute at a time when the Government and Historic England are known to be discussing whether the metal detecting should be regulated further in the context of potential revisions to the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme.

In the absence of a published contact phone number or e-mail address, Pink Wellies have been approached for comment via social media.

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