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NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt joins Home Secretary Priti Patel for Downing Street press conference

21 Jan 2021

Police are emphasising that house parties, and other large gatherings, should not be happening, with the news that attendees of such events can now be fined £800.

National Police Chiefs' Council Chair, Martin Hewitt, delivered a speech at today's daily government covid-19 briefing, held at 10 Downing Street.

The full speech can be read below 

I’d like to start by welcoming today’s announcement.

We have made it repeatedly clear that house parties, and other large gatherings, should not be happening.

They are dangerous, irresponsible, and totally unacceptable. I hope that the likelihood of increased fines act as a further disincentive for people who are thinking of attending or organising such events.

We will work closely with government to implement these new regulations.

And as we do with all changes to regulations, we will be providing guidance to police officers to support them in explaining and applying any changes.

When I last spoke here ten days ago, I said that we were at the most dangerous stage of the pandemic, and that personal decisions are critical.

That remains the case today.

The death figures in recent days are shocking and I urge everyone to take notice of them. Every person lost is someone’s family member.

Gatherings where people are in close contact with each other, in confined spaces, will allow the virus to spread.

Anyone who organises one will be given a fixed penalty notice, and so will those who choose to attend. This is about saving lives.

When we see people that are putting themselves and others in danger, we will not waste time trying to reason with them.

They are demonstrating no regard for the safety of others, or even for themselves.

It’s important to say that in most of our daily encounters, we only have to engage with people, explain the rules and encourage compliance.

We know the majority of people are doing their level best to follow the rules in the interests of their fellow citizens, and protecting the NHS.

But, we must deal with the persistent minority.

Official figures will be released next week which show how many fines have been given out since the start of this national lockdown.

Forces are telling us there has been a significant increase, reflecting the fact more officers have been out on dedicated patrols taking targeted action against the small few who are letting everyone down.

What I’m able to say is that since these regulations were introduced in late August, and up to 17 January this year, 250 fixed penalty notices have been issued by forces in England for organising a large gathering.

These fines carry a £10,000 penalty.

I make no apologies for these fines, which are given in the most serious cases, where those organising these gatherings are selfishly putting lives at risk.

Now anyone who attends one of these big parties can expect to receive an £800 fine.

And to illustrate what we are having to deal with, let me give some very disappointing examples:

  • Last week in Brick Lane, London, following reports from neighbours, officers attended a house party of more than 40 people who were cramped indoors. Attendees were hostile. Three officers were injured with one requiring hospital treatment, and drugs were also found. Arrests were made and fines were given.
  • A house party in Hertfordshire with more than 150 people attending was stopped. Music equipment including mixing decks and amplifiers was being used by the organisers. Neighbours contacted police after seeing an unusual number of cars outside. Multiple fines were given, equipment was seized, and sadly yet again, an officer was injured.
  • An officer who was part of an operation in Bournemouth, policing an anti-lockdown protest, has since contracted the disease and has been admitted to hospital. While the officers’ infection could not be directly linked to the event, it puts into perspective the dangerous nature of policing, even with the adequate stock of PPE available for all officers.
  • In Leighton Buzzard, officers were called to a site set up for a large party, with a dance floor and speakers. As part of our engage, explain, and encourage approach, the organiser was given words of advice to stop the event from taking place. When officers checked later in the day, 50 people were in attendance. A £10,000 fine was issued.

Those are just a few examples where officers are not only exposing themselves to the risks of COVID - but also in some cases facing abuse and physical assault from those who are wilfully breaching the regulations, and endangering all those present.

Today, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that 1,688 offences were charged relating to assaults on emergency service workers in the last six months.

We’ve been firm from the outset, together with the Director for Public Prosecutions, that we will do all we can to prosecute those who commit these criminal offences.

For every day of this pandemic, officers, staff, and volunteers have been out there keeping communities safe and helping to prevent the spread of the virus. The examples I’ve just given show how dangerous that role can be.

But the most effective way to reduce the risk is for people to comply with the regulations.

So my message is:

Wear a face covering on public transport and in shops unless you are exempt.

Self-isolate if you are required to do so.

And unless you have a valid reason, or need to flee from harm such as domestic abuse, stay at home.

Thank you.