Covid lockdown: Fines in England and Wales near 100k as police vow to go after indoor parties


Fines for breaches of coronavirus regulations are nearing the 100,000 mark as police today vowed to go after indoor parties, even as lockdown rules ease. 

Provisional data published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) shows a total of 94,368 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued by forces, including 85,975 in England and 8,393 in Wales, between March 27 last year and March 14, 2021.

Some 25,416 of those, or more than a quarter, were issued in the latest four-week period – down from more than 26,000 the previous month.

Two policemen were wounded as they tried to stop people leaving an illegal gathering in Knightsbridge in January

Two policemen were wounded as they tried to stop people leaving an illegal gathering in Knightsbridge in January

Police officers confront a man breaching rules at a barbershop in Kent in February

Police officers confront a man breaching rules at a barbershop in Kent in February

What are the rules around gatherings?

Under current Covid laws, you must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’.

The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

People attending illegal house parties face £800 fines as police tighten their clampdown on rule-breaking.

The fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £6,400. Hosts of illegal parties are already liable for a £10,000 fine.

The figures show a total of 284 £10,000 fines have been handed to organisers of mass gatherings of more than 30 people, including illegal raves, parties and protests, in England, with three in Wales.

And 1,647 £800 tickets have been issued to people attending gatherings of more than 15 people.

Under current Covid laws, you must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’.

The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups, including breaking up gatherings and issuing fines.

Monday will see rules eased slightly for the first time this year, with outdoor gatherings including in private gardens of either six people – known as ‘the rule of six’ – or two households allowed from next week.   

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: ‘While it is encouraging to see that the number of fines processed in the last month has decreased, a small number of people continue to defy the rules, putting themselves and others at risk of the virus.

‘It is particularly frustrating to see the groups of selfish and irresponsible people organising and attending illegal parties and unlicensed music events – they clearly have no regard for the rules and we move quickly to enforcement in these cases.

‘Looking ahead as restrictions start to ease, we will be focusing our efforts on these types of large indoor gatherings.

‘Any person who organises or attends these events clearly doesn’t need the regulations explaining to them and we will not hesitate to issue fines where necessary.’

The NPCC said the Metropolitan Police disrupted an illegal rave at a disused bank in Southall, west London, in the early hours of March 7, while officers in Leicestershire handed out 35 fines after shutting down three parties between 12.15am and 2.50am on February 27.

Merseyside Police seized a diary of ‘party flat’ bookings and gave out 14 tickets after breaking up a house party in Liverpool, where a machete was thrown at police from an upstairs window.

Magistrate throws out teen’s £10,000 Covid fine for holding a rule-breaking party as she blasts CPS and police for mishandling case 

A teenager who was fined £10,000 over an alleged Covid-breaking party has had it thrown out by a magistrate – who said police ‘bandied’ the big penalties around and blasted the CPS for mishandling the case.

Isaac Parsons, 19, was accused of holding a get-together at his Wiltshire home last year, which police said had between 80 and 100 people in attendance.

On September 4 police posted on Facebook they had issued the £10,000 notice – which would result in a criminal record – for the party after officers were called to the house in Devizes.

At the time, it was an offence to hold a gathering of more than 30 people in a private dwelling, and the teenager had been charged under the Coronavirus Regulations.

The fine was initially appealed by the family and their solicitor asked for a dismissal ahead of the trial – on the grounds that the wrong sections of law were quoted in the fixed penalty notice.

The Crown Prosecution Service wanted to amend this, but the District Judge at Swindon Magistrates Court refused – stating the case wouldn’t have ever come to court if the correct law was used and a £100 fine was issued. 

Isaac’s father Martin Parsons, a Deputy Chairman Political of Devizes Conservative Association, accused Wiltshire Police of ‘misconduct in public office and contempt of court’.

Isaac pleaded not guilty to organising a house party in breach of coronavirus rules in February. 

District Judge Joanna Dickens threw it out – and slammed the CPS and police for how it was handled.

The NPCC report said steep rises in the number of tickets handed out following the introduction of Tier 4 restrictions before Christmas and the latest national lockdown in England on January 6 reflected a move towards quicker enforcement by police.

But there has been a decline in the number of fines handed out since February 4, with 3,481 in the seven days to March 11, down from 4,612 the previous week, but still higher than the first lockdown’s peak of 3,294 during the week of the Easter bank holiday in April last year.

For breaches of face covering regulations, a total of 3,140 fines were issued in England, including 547 on public transport between June 15 2020 and March 14 and 2,593 in relevant places such as shops from July 24 last year.

The data also shows 687 FPNs had been handed to businesses for breaches of regulations that came into force in England last September, including failures to enforce face covering regulations, unlawfully staying open, hosting large gatherings or not sticking to table service rules.

Some 508 fines had been issued by forces in England and three in Wales to people failing to self-isolate after arriving from a country on the Government quarantine list up to March 14.

However, there have also been cases of fines that have been handed out illegally during the lockdown period.

Teenager Isaac Parsons, 19, was accused of holding a get-together at his Wiltshire home last year, which police said had between 80 and 100 people in attendance.

The fine was initially appealed by the family and their solicitor asked for a dismissal ahead of the trial – on the grounds that the wrong sections of law were quoted in the fixed penalty notice.

The Crown Prosecution Service wanted to amend this, but the District Judge at Swindon Magistrates Court refused – stating the case wouldn’t have ever come to court if the correct law was used and a £100 fine was issued. 

Isaac’s father Martin Parsons, a Deputy Chairman Political of Devizes Conservative Association, accused Wiltshire Police of ‘misconduct in public office and contempt of court’.

Isaac pleaded not guilty to organising a house party in breach of coronavirus rules in February before District Judge Joanna Dickens threw it out – and slammed the CPS and police for how it was handled.

There was then confusion in November when the Government’s policing minister was asked to provide ‘urgent’ clarification after the issuing of £10,000 ‘super-fines’ for lockdown rule-breakers was suspended.

West Midlands Police’s chief constable said the force stopped handing out the fines after concerns were raised about potential inequality between those who pay up within 28 days and those who challenge the notices in court.

When fines go to court they are means-tested, meaning the recipient’s ability to pay is taken into account.

Labour’s West Midlands regional police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said the move had come about following advice being issued by the NPCC. 

Mr Jamieson said he also found the situation ‘deeply embarrassing’ personally, having himself been an ‘enthusiastic’ supporter of the introduction of tough rules.

But gym owners embraced the ‘brilliant’ news and claimed it ‘validates’ them trying to stay open and shows ‘what the government has been doing has been ridiculous’. 

Today, Mr Hewitt said police expect crime to return to pre-lockdown levels as restrictions are eased.

‘Our officers will be more visible at key dates in the road map, to engage with the public and keep explaining the restrictions which remain in place at the time, and we hope the public will continue to support us in our efforts to prevent the further spread of the virus,’ he added. 

Monday’s changes come ahead of the third stage of rules easing on April 12, which will include the reopening of pubs and restaurants outdoors, non-essential shops, public buildings and outdoor attractions including theme parks. 

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen from Monday, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

But up until then the rules remain – including for this weekend – that people can only meet one other person from outside their household or support bubble socially or for exercise, and this must be away from their home. 

The ‘stay at home’ rule will also end on Monday, but the Government has advised that people continue to work from home where they can and ‘minimise the number of journeys they make where possible’. The advice from Monday will be to ‘stay local’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.