Warwickshire Police Force has pledged to continue its fight to prevent Hells Angels organising an annual bikers’ festival despite this year’s event passing off peacefully.
Chief constable Keith Bristow said yesterday he was relieved that the Bulldog Bash, which organisers claim was attended by more than 23,000 people, had not witnessed any major incidents.
Warwickshire Police mounted a large-scale security operation involving 450 officers at last week’s four-day music and motorcycle festival at Long Marston, near Stratford-upon-Avon.
Figures released by the Warwickshire force showed that officers made 11 arrests, 448 people were searched and nine lock-knives were surrendered.
Speaking at Warwickshire Police headquarters, Mr Bristow said: “The policing operation that we had to deliver following Stratford District Council’s decision to permit the Bulldog Bash to take place this year was successful in protecting all those who attended, including members of the Hells Angels, from harm.
“While the policing operation did result in a number of arrests, I am relieved that no one was killed or seriously injured this year as a direct result of having attended this event.”
But Mr Bristow added: “We have been unable to prevent an organised crime group from holding a fundraising event in the county and we will therefore continue to explore all legal opportunities available to us – both criminal and civil – to achieve this outcome before August 2010.”
The chief constable stressed that his force had no “agenda” against the vast majority of those attending the Bash, who he acknowledged were law-abiding citizens.
Warwickshire Police would welcome and support a well-organised and safe motorcycle event, not operated under the influence of an organised crime group, Mr Bristow said.
However, the police chief went on: “The Hells Angels are designated as an organised crime group and are, without doubt, involved in extreme violence both in this country and abroad.
“We would be failing in our duty to protect communities from harm if we did not do everything possible to remove their ability to fundraise in Warwickshire in support of their criminal activity elsewhere.
“This is not just about Warwickshire.”
Last year’s policing operation at the Bulldog Bash is estimated to have cost £662,000, although this year’s bill is likely to be significantly lower.
Commenting on the cost of policing the event, Mr Bristow said: “The policing operation was based on intelligence and an assessment of the threats posed by and to this event.
“I believe that it was necessary and proportionate. I welcome the fact that it was delivered at a lower cost than last year but saving money is not the priority, protecting people from harm is.”
During the operation, which involved five surrounding police forces, two men from Birmingham were arrested in connection with a robbery in Reading.
The 24th Bulldog Bash is planned for August 12-15 next year.