Police issue two £10,000 lockdown party 'super fines' – but rescind both days later
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Suffolk police slapped £10,000 fines on two homeowners in five days for staging parties during lockdown – but later dropped both fees to just £200.
One of the incidents involved 'multiple people' attending a house party at a flat in Ipswich on January 20 – the same day UK coronavirus deaths reached their highest number since the pandemic began.
Police said the owner of the flat was initially handed a £10,000 fine, but later ordered to pay just £200 for breaching regulations.
Five days earlier, as 1,280 coronavirus deaths were recorded across the UK, police issued another £10,000 fine – later reduced to £200 – to a Mildenhall homeowner for hosting a gathering of 12 people.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the force was asked to disclose how many £10,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) had been issued since August 28.
In response, the force said it did not record the monetary value of FPNs on its records, but that two fines had been issued for contravening a requirement not to hold, or be involved in holding, a gathering of more than 30 people.
Last August, the government introduced tough £10,000 fines for anyone caught facilitating or organising an unlawful gathering of more than 30 people.
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In January, fines of £800 were introduced for anyone attending a house party of more than 15 people.
The organiser of a wedding party in Margaretting became the first person in Essex to be fined £10,000 on October 11.
A 32 year-old man from Wickford was fined the same amount for organising an unlicensed music event at a disused church in East Horndon on New Year's Eve.
Suffolk Constabulary said the £10,000 fines issued in Ipswich and Mildenhall were later rescinded because neither met the requirements of the legislation by involving more than 30 people.
A spokesman said: “It should also be considered that procedural guidance stipulating that a superintendents authorisation is required to issue a £10,000 fine was only introduced locally on January 18.
"Bearing in mind one of these offences occurred just after this date, officers were still unfamiliar with the detail of the legislation and new force policy.
"It also needs to be remembered that these issues were recognised by the Government, hence the need to introduce the £800 fine announced on January 21.”
Latest figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council revealed that a total of 1,098 FPNs were issued by Suffolk police between March 27 last year and April 18 this year.
In a separate Freedom of Information request, the force it had issued 14 FPNs since September 28 for people failing to self-isolate after being instructed by NHS Test and Trace, including two aged 18-30, six aged 31-40, two aged 41-50, three aged 51-60 and one over 60.
A spokesman said officers had been able to detect breaches through community reporting and intelligence, adding: "Where people fail to self-isolate and refuse to comply officers can issue FPNs and direct people to return to self-isolation.
“Officers engage with individuals to establish their circumstances, using discretion wherever it is reasonable to do so.”