Leighton Buzzard Party Organisers Breached COVID Regulations — Fined £10,000

  • The public are being warned of the consequences of attending large gatherings during lockdown after the organiser of a New Year’s Eve party attended by dozens of people was issued with a £10,000 fine.

Bedfordshire Police have published an open letter to anyone looking to attend large gatherings such as parties, protests or funerals which breach the existing regulations, warning that officers will take enforcement action to disperse large groups of people.

The fresh call comes after the action was taken against the organiser of a party at a location near Leighton Buzzard. 

On 31 December officers called to the site had found a marquee with a number of tables and chairs, a small dance floor and four speakers. The organiser was spoken to and given words of advice.

When officers returned later they found around 50 people in attendance.

Police were able to bring the event to a close and disperse the attendees. After reviewing the evidence, officers have now issued a £10,000 fine to the main organiser for breaching Covid-19 regulations.

Chief Superintendent John Murphy, who is leading Bedfordshire Police’s response to the coronavirus, said, “Throughout the pandemic, we have been working with our partners to urge and remind members of the public to adhere to the government guidance so we can all play our part in stopping the spread of the virus, so it is astonishing to see people brazenly and blatantly ignoring these rules.

“This party was not only a huge breach, but also showed a total lack of respect to those people who haven’t been able to attend the funeral of a loved one, or spend Christmas and New Year with their friends and family, which is why we have not taken this lightly and have taken firm action.

“We understand the past 10 months have been difficult for everyone and we are grateful to those who have been following the guidelines, but the pressure on the NHS is still immense and we all need to everything we can to keep ourselves and others safe.”

The open letter from Assistant Chief Constable Sharn Basra outlines the local picture in the county and why it is so important that people continue to stick to the rules.

“There are restrictions on travel and gatherings, but the single most important action we can take is to stay at home,” ACC Basra said in the letter.

“Bedfordshire Police strongly advises people not to attend any gathering, for the protection of yourselves and others. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic.”

There are exemptions that apply to gatherings, for example those that are necessary for the purposes of work, providing emergency assistance or escaping the risk of harm, such as those fleeing domestic abuse. 

Bedfordshire Police have issued 103 fixed penalty notices over Covid-19 regulation breaches over the past week, with 399 incidents having been reported to the force over the same timeframe.

As well as the New Year’s Eve party fine, the force's investigation into a funeral in Dunstable in October attended by a significant number of people is also ongoing, with a case file having been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway said, “While I completely understand how heart-breaking it must be not to be able to attend a funeral or a wedding and a large wake or reception afterwards, I do not accept that a single member of the public does not understand that this is not possible at a time when the NHS is seeing more beds occupied by patients with a single illness than at any time in its history – 42 per cent - and when local infection rates remain stubbornly high.

“Bedfordshire Police has invested significant effort in making sure that leaders in all places of worship, funeral directors, crematoria and venues which are available for the public to rent are aware that they will also personally be held responsible and made subject to fines, as well as those who make a booking with them if they collude in the law being broken.

“These laws were not made on a whim but to prevent deaths and our hospitals being overwhelmed. There are no exceptions." 

Cllr Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, added: “People flouting the current national restrictions in place are showing disregard for the health of the public and, with the support of the police, we will enforce fines to those who do not comply.

“We need everyone to maintain social distancing and restrict contact more than ever as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the local area. We will continue to work with the police to enforce the local rules, and our new Covid-19 stewards will be working directly with the public and businesses to ensure that breaches are reported and acted on.”

  • For more information on the current Covid-19 guidelines and what you can and cannot do under the national lockdown, you can visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.