Scumerset rave attendees acquitted of public nuisance conspiracy charges after successful legal argument.

17 Oct 2023

R v AB and JC

Hannah Webb and Stephen Knight, both of One Pump Court Chambers, secured the acquittal of two defendants charged with conspiracy to commit public nuisance on a legal argument made at the end of the defence case.

The charges arose from the defendants’ attendance at the “Return to Scumerset” rave in July 2020, on Charmy Down airfield, outside Bath. The rave had been organised in memory of the lives of ‘Natty’ and ‘Jak’, friends of the defendants, and was attended by over 3,000 people.

The primary evidence against Hannah’s client consisted of WhatsApp messages before the rave, in which he and others, many of whom had pleaded guilty to the charge, planned a rave for the date in question. There was also body worn video evidence of him confessing to setting up a scaffolding rig at the eventual location, and evidence that he was a part of one of the sound systems who planned to play at the party. Hannah’s client did not give evidence.

Stephen’s client, a student and DJ, gave evidence that he had no prior knowledge of the location of the rave, and that his only intention had been to attend to play a set in memory of his friend. After his arrival in the middle of the night, he had no knowledge that the rave would disturb anyone in the remote location where it was held.

Hannah argued that the Whatsapp messages demonstrated that the plan that her client had participated in was to hold a rave at a different location, where there was no evidence that anyone would be caused any nuisance. In their full time submissions Stephen and Hannah demonstrated that the prosecution had failed to prove that their clients knew of any impact that the rave would have, and that public disruption caused was largely as a result of the police intervention to shut down the rave.

The Judge accepted Hannah and Stephen’s submissions, and found that:

(a) the Whatsapp messages, in which Hannah’s client featured, planned a rave in a location for which there was no evidence that public nuisance would occur; and

(b) whilst it was unclear whether the amount of disruption caused would meet the high threshold for common law public nuisance, there was no evidence to suggest that these defendants would have foreseen and intended that disruption would be caused.

The jury were directed to return not guilty verdicts on the 9th day of trial. In explaining to the jury why he was doing so, the judge told the jury “Why is it you may say these two defendants are not guilty in the judge’s estimation when others have pleaded guilty? Of course those who pleaded guilty one assume had the law explained to them, they… must have been satisfied they were guilty of the relevant conspiracy. It may be that the points taken on behalf of Mr B and Mr C might have been taken by others, and hadn’t been.”

Stephen was instructed by Zachary Whyte at Sperrin Law.

Hannah was instructed by Hussain Hassan and Rosie Worster at Commons CIC.

Articles about the rave:

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