Police fine three men who drove 150-miles to the Peak District because ‘lockdown is boring’ as new figures reveal only FIVE of the 196 £10,000 Covid penalties handed out in England last year have been paid
- Derbyshire Police revealed the visitors had come up from London for the trip
- Comes as new figures revealed issues with how £10,000 fines are enforced
- Meanwhile, latest to break rules include teen raver and anti-lockdown model
Police have fined three men who drove 150-miles to the Peak District because ‘lockdown is boring’ – as new figures revealed that only five out of 196 £10,000 penalties handed out in England last year have been paid.
Derbyshire Police tweeted: ‘Three visitors to Derbyshire from London because lockdown is ”boring”. Unfortunately, Albanian driving licenses don’t work here after 10 years of residency so vehicle seized. A long walk and Covid fines incoming.’
The maximum £10,000 fines are meant for organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people including raves, parties and protests.
According to snapshot figures between August and December 20, of those 196 issued in England five had been paid, 53 were being formally contested, 42 had been ignored, and 96 still had time left to pay in the 28-day payment period.
Derbyshire Police tweeted: ‘Three visitors to Derbyshire from London because lockdown is ”boring”’
The force added: ‘Unfortunately, Albanian driving licenses don’t work here after 10 years of residency so vehicle seized. A long walk and Covid fines incoming’
It comes as more Covid rule breakers were hit with fines, including a teenage raver, a male model turned lockdown protester and a group of friends who drove 150 miles because they were ‘bored’.
George Parsons danced outside court after being fined £200 for attending an illegal Halloween party lasting almost 24 hours at a disused warehouse in Beeches Industrial Estate in Yate, Somerset.
The 18-year-old, who had been squatting in a caravan, laughed and smoked a cigarette as he left Bristol Magistrates’ Court, before launching into a tenuous defence of his actions.
Parsons said: ‘Raves aren’t anti-lockdown, they’re anti-capitalism. Fear is going to control. People are affected by the modern way of life whether there’s raves on or not.’
Asked about the risk of his actions making someone seriously ill with coronavirus, he replied: ‘I’ve had so many of my friends seriously ill through the modern way of life. Raves are a way to respect them. And that’s enough.’
Fellow defendant George Packham, a 29-year-old unemployed fruit picker from Cornwall, also spoke as he left court after being fined £640, giving a thumbs up and saying: ‘Obey. Obey.’
In Hartlepool, bodybuilder Eddy Ellwood has been ordered to close his gym with ‘immediate effect’ after repeatedly refusing to shut during lockdown.
The five-times Mr Pro Universe champion allowed members of the public to exercise Xtreme Fitness as a protest against the rules.
Now he has been served with a closure notice that could see the gym closed for up to three months. If he breaches the order he could be hit with an unlimited fine.
Meanwhile, two anti-lockdown protesters were ordered to pay more than £1,700 in court fines after attending a demonstration on the day the Government ‘cancelled Christmas.’
Illegal ravers George Parsons and George Packham after being fined at Bristol Magistrates’ Court
Male model Rio Handley, 34 and retired IT manager Colin Foster, 55, were arrested for breaching the former ‘rule of six’ regulations after a crowd of 50 protesters waved banners in Manchester city centre demanding an end to Covid restrictions.
The peaceful protest and march from Piccadilly Gardens to Albert Square on December 19 last year just hours before plans to allow families to reunite for four days over the Christmas period were scrapped.
Police said Hanley was at the ‘head of the protest and making speeches’ whilst Foster was detained after waving a placard and ‘chanting’ about the virus. Both refused to give their names and addresses to officers.
At Manchester Magistrates’ court the two men were convicted of breaching regulations 7 and 8 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020.
Foster, of Hale, Altrincham who denied the charges was fined £480 and ordered to pay £685 in costs and surcharges whilst Hanley, of Manchester who pleaded guilty was fined £200 and ordered to pay £433.
District judge Margaret McCormack told Foster ‘You did not believe the coronavirus regulations constituted law, but the police did. Your interpretation of the law is wrong.
In Hartlepool, bodybuilder Eddy Ellwood has been ordered to close his gym with ‘immediate effect’ after repeatedly refusing to shut during lockdown
‘The argument that the coronavirus regulations do not have force of law is without merit. People do have rights but they have to be balanced against those of the rest of the public to remain safe.’
The data showing how few £10,000 fines have actually been paid was produced by the criminal records office Acro and given to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
Figures requested later in the month from ACRO under freedom of information legislation, showed that for England and Wales 76 of the 198 fines issued were being contested.
Legal and policy officer for Big Brother Watch Madeleine Stone called unpaid lockdown fines ‘a prosecution crisis waiting to happen’.
She said: ‘These life-changing fines are a draconian and ineffective response to the pandemic.’
Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: ‘The creation of £10,000 fines was completely disproportionate and only serves to punish people financially at a time of great economic uncertainty.
‘For many people this fine is impossible to pay, and so this tactic just widens the number of people at risk of being criminalised.’
Human rights barrister Kirsty Brimelow QC said the penalties put people at risk of criminalisation when the original purpose of fines was to keep them out of the justice system.
‘The majority of people cannot afford to pay a £10,000 fine,’ she said.
‘People are being set up to fail by the issuing of these notices.’
Questions were raised over the super-fines in November, when police warned the government that those who paid within 28 days could face a much larger bill than those who fought the penalty in court, where the amount paid would be means-tested.
Initially officers were told to stop issuing the penalties, but the NPCC later agreed that anyone issued with a £10,000 fine would be made fully aware of their right to fight it in court.
Male model Rio Handley, 34 and retired IT manager Colin Foster, 55, were arrested for breaching the former ‘rule of six’ regulations
Senior officers are said not to be surprised that the proportion being contested is high, because of the size of the fines.
Latest figures showed that up to January 17, a total of 250 of the fines had been issued in England and Wales.
In the past month those given fines include a funeral director over a service attended by 150 people in Welwyn Garden City; the organisers of a mass snowball fight attended by hundreds of people on Woodhouse Moor, Leeds; and one of the organisers of a wedding attended by around 150 people at a school in Stamford Hill, north London.
An NPCC spokesperson said: ‘Police use a 4Es approach of engaging with the public, explaining the rules, and encouraging compliance with them.
‘Large gatherings should not be happening in the current circumstances and the regulations in place for everyone’s safety are absolutely clear on that.
‘Those who organise large gatherings know they are breaking the law and putting others at risk.
‘Officers will only issue a fine as a last resort, but will not waste time with endless encouragement where there is a clear and egregious breach of the rules, such as for these large gatherings.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The majority of the public are continuing to play their part to control this terrible virus by staying at home – it is shameful that a small minority continue to flout the law and it’s right we have a strong deterrent for those who put us at risk by ignoring the rules.
‘Those who refuse to pay fixed penalty notices may face court action and a possible criminal record.
‘We have given police the appropriate guidance to ensure they can charge offences correctly, and rigorously enforce the law, which is why we have made £60 million of extra funding available to police and local authorities.’
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