Under-18s face being banned from Portsmouth’s Mutiny Festival

Crowds at this summer's Mutiny Festival Picture: Paul Windsor
Crowds at this summer's Mutiny Festival Picture: Paul Windsor
M27. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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UNDER-18s could be banned from Mutiny Festival after a number of children were sexually assaulted, attacked and exposed to an ‘increase in drug use’.

Police said events at the festival had ‘seriously undermined’ their faith during the two-day event this year, held in May on King George V playing field in Cosham, Portsmouth.

Now they want city councillors, who are set to meet next week, to put a condition on the licence banning under-18s.

PC Pete Rackham’s report lists a series of allegations revealing a girl as young as 13 entered the festival, with her 14-year-old friend sexually assaulted.

Co-organiser Luke Betts said he wants to bring in photo ID conditions for 16 and 17-year-olds to tackle the problem.

Reports submitted to a licensing sub-committee reveal 21 incidents on the site, with two off-site.

Five involved under-18s, including one where a dad signed in his daughter, 14, and her friend, 13, before then leaving them both in the festival.

‘Whilst in the big top the aggrieved alleges that she has been cornered by a group of males and one of the 
males sexually assaults her,’ a report said.

Alison Jeffrey, director of children, families, and education at the council, backs the police call for a change.

In her statement she said: ‘The council needs to act to prevent harm to children.

‘Straightforward restriction of the licence to age 18 or over, as recommended by the police, is an appropriate response to the actual harm which was clearly experienced by a number of children this year, despite a wide range of actions to try to manage the risk.’

PC Rackham adds ‘it is the belief of the Chief Officer of Police that the licence holder has demonstrated an inability to successfully action their own policies and procedures’.

He said while the organisers had come up with ‘positive’ ways to tackle the issue ‘there is no way to test their proposals, leaving it to chance on the day that proposals will mitigate the risk to children. This is unacceptable’.

Incidents highlighted by police were:

n Boy, 13, found a short distance from the event punched four times to the face, Admits to medics he took nitrous oxide, cannabis and alcohol.

n Boy, 17, punched victim to the face, with a possible broken eye socket.

n Ex-boyfriend of 17-year-old girl threw a bottle of drink at her.

n Teenager, 17, groped by a man from behind who put a bottle of Fosters in her mouth but she said it ‘was not lager’ and ‘moments later felt wobbly’.

Organisers admitted having children escorted only offered a ‘veil of safety’ and had ‘failings’ they want to address.

Mr Betts said: ‘We’re proactive, whether it be having alcohol in their hands when they shouldn’t or anything that goes against the licensing. Our security is out there.’

He said Mutiny was ‘probably the safety place in the city to be’ over that weekend and it made ‘strong improvement’ each year.

Co-organiser Neil Roberts’s improvements report includes a better separate entrance for under-18s and bringing in a safeguarding manager.

Problems with exit, which saw people spill out on to Western Road, would be solved by a partial closure of the road.

Police said they had a ‘positive relationship’ with the organisers.