Tent raids, random searches and sniffer dogs: These are the new security measures at Bestival

Security has been increased after a girl died from an overdose last year


Louella Michie died at Bestival last year. Her body was found in the woods after she had overdosed on a mixture of 2C-P, ecstasy and ketamine.

In response to her death, Bestival increased security this year in the queue, the campsites and within the stage arena. This year every individual was checked by sniffer dogs to see if they were in possession of drugs, and their bags were fully emptied causing long queue times. The personal alcohol allowance was changed so individual's could only bring in a maximum of 16 tinnies, and drugs testing company The Loop were brought on site. On Facebook, those who attended have been complaining, calling out the security for raiding tents and performing random stop and search drugs.

This is what we found out about the new security measures at Bestival:

The queue

This year at Bestival, everyone's bag was fully searched and every individual was made to line up to see if one of the sniffer dogs could detect any drugs. On their website, Bestival pre-warned people, saying "we conduct robust searches on entry to the festival with drug detection dogs used to screen all customers. Upon entry, you will be required to pass a drugs detection dogs."

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Every person had their bags checked at Bestival this year

The bag-checks

Abbey, who worked at Bestival giving out wristbands said people would first have their bags thoroughly checked, before being made to line up and individually walk past a sniffer dog. Afterwards they could get their wristband and enter the site.

A lot of people would hide drugs in their sleeping bag, however this year security were going through everything, even discarding girls' make-up mirrors as they could be used as a "weapon". Abbey said: "It took three hours to get your bag searched because they were searching so in depth. They were taking things out, checking in pillow cases, banging round duvets checking there was nothing in there."

Lily, 23, joined the festival on the Saturday to avoid the normal rush and long queues. But despite getting there late, Lily described the "huge" security as "intense". Lily said: "They definitely upped the anti, they checked all of our bags as we came in. Security made us drink our bottles of water, in case it was spirits. Every girl had their beauty mirrors taken – loads of stuff had been taken from other people.

"It was intense, and we came on the Saturday morning so the Thursday must have been awful, there was definitely a huge security presence around the campsite."

The sniffer dogs

This year, as explained on Bestival's website, every person would be required to pass a dog drug detection test. At Parklife and other festivals, people are lined up and the dog goes along the line, however at Bestival after the bag search, people were channeled through one-by-one to pass the sniffer dogs. Abbey told The Tab: "You were lined up and put through a little channel so every single person passed the dog."

The search tent

If you were pulled up by a dog you had to go into an alternative queue to be searched. Luke, who queued between 2-3 hours, said: "Everyone got fully searched and my mates got strip searched. They had to go in the other tent whilst security were going through all their crates and clothes. None of us had drugs on us, it's never happened to us before."

Regarding the strip searches, Dorset Police commented: "Officers from Dorset Police were present at search gates and supported security where necessary."

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Complaints were made on Bestival's Facebook

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The campsite

Luke went to Bestival with 15 of his friends, this summer being his 12th time at the festival. However this year, he said the security "absolutely ruined it", after he was searched twice a day, and once in his campsite.

"It was far too extreme, the security completely ruined the vibe, everyone was on edge the whole weekend. I'd walk across the campsite to go and see my mate and I'd get searched", he said. "Our tent got raided – they wouldn't ask to come in they'd just unzip the tent and come and look."

According to Luke, around 10 security guards would always be walking through the tents, and two dogs were "running round loose the whole weekend".

Dorset Police said: "Any police officer is able to conduct a tent search, in line with legislation and force policy."

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According to Luke, around 10 security guards were always walking through the campsite

According to people there, security weren't just targeting men, people they thought could be on drugs or those who looked a bit shifty.

Dorset Police said: "Any police officer is able to conduct a stop and search if they suspect someone is in possession of drugs, in line with legislation and force policy requirements."

Going inside the arena

Abbey was camped in the staff campsite. To get to the stage arena, Abbey had to go past two search checkpoints. At the second checkpoint, there would be another sniffer dog search similar to the one in the entrance queue. "One-by-one you go past so the dog gets a good look", Abbey said. "Then you go up to a table and have to hand over everything you've got on you purse, bumbag, and they search them. If you're pulled up, you're pulled up to another tent and given a proper search.

"Once you go into the tent they take about 10 minutes. They repeatedly ask you 'what do you have on you', and keep saying 'where is it? where is it?', before finally telling you 'you got away with it this time'. It was literally like you were being interrogated."

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Luke said security were searching people near the Port stage

The stage arena

Like in the campsites, people were being stop and searched for drugs in all areas of the stage arena. Luke was stopped several times and patted down. He said: "At the Port and Temple stage everyone was getting searched again – we couldn't rave and have a good time."

According to Luke, him and his friends weren't being singled out – instead everyone was being searched by security.

It's obvious why Bestival increased security this year – they're determined not to let another ticket-holder die from a drugs overdose. However was the increase of security, whose mission was to confiscate any pill or bag possible, meaning people were more likely to buy potentially dangerous drugs in the festival, or were less likely to approach The Loop in case they were spotted going in with drugs to be tested? Abbey commented: "I think they made it more dangerous. People end up buying inside – my friend bought some MDMA which ended up being 100 per cent glue. If they hadn't felt nervous to get tested at The Loop themselves, they might not have been ill and passed out. The intimidation tactics make people feel more nervous, not safer."

Bestival commented: "We strongly refute these allegations. The safety of our audience is of paramount importance to Bestival. We work with Dorset Police and our security team and are confident that a proportionate and realistic level of resource and procedures are in place to ensure effective policing and security of the festival.

"Festival-goers are always subject to searches on arrival to the festival site. We are confident that we had an adequate amount of security personnel at all entrances to facilitate the searches although with the volume of people entering at the same time, some queues developed."

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Dorset Police’s Gold Commander for Bestival, Superintendent Mike Rogers said: “We have been working with event organisers in the run up to Bestival to ensure it is as safe as possible, and crime is kept to a minimum.

“Across the weekend, Dorset Police made a total of 20 arrests including 15 for drug related offences. During 2017, there were a total of 36 arrests, with 27 being drug related.

“This year, Dorset Police introduced additional measures to tackle drug usage and supply, including the use of plain clothed officers on site and supporting an enhanced search process on entrance gates. This resulted in over £90,000 of drugs handed in through amnesty bins, doubling that of the previous year and a further £20,000 worth of drugs seized from those arrested.

“A total of 57 crimes were recorded which is a reduction on the 88 crimes that were reported to officers during the event last year – a 35 per cent decrease.

“The reduction in reported crime and arrests as well as an increase in surrendered drugs is testament to the close working relationship between Dorset Police, Bestival and other agencies working together to create a safe and enjoyable event."

Other stories this writer recommends:

1) How to sneak drugs into a festival, with diagrams

2) The very best of Bestival: We found the most fashionable festival-goers from this weekend

3) How to survive a festival this summer: A comprehensive guide