Large gatherings broken up across UK but police say vast majority of people stuck to the rules
Police made a number of arrests and issued dozens of fines for New Year’s Eve parties and large gatherings that breached strict tier 4 Covid regulations across the UK, but officers said the vast majority of people stuck to the rules.
Parties were broken up in Brighton, Sheffield, Essex and London where breaches of stay-at-home guidelines occurred. In Edinburgh, hundreds of people gathered around the castle despite warnings to keep away.
But according to the Police Federation, officers were pleasantly surprised more illegal gatherings did not take place.
Sussex police said 12 fines were issued in Brighton and 13 arrests were made across West Sussex for a variety of offences including affray. Essex police said they arrested five people overnight and issued £18,000-worth of fines for Covid breaches.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet said: “I’d like to firstly thank everyone across Essex who stayed at home and did the right thing last night. Unfortunately, there were others who decided to blatantly flout the coronavirus rules and regulations and, ultimately, they decided that partying was more important than protecting other people.”
The force said officers had objects thrown at them when they broke up an illegal gathering of hundreds of people at a church in Thorndon Park. Three men were arrested for drugs offences.
Officers later broke up a party of about 100 people at an abandoned warehouse in Brentwood, where two people were arrested.
A woman was issued with a £10,000 fine for organising a house party for a 100 people in Sewardstonebury. More than 25 guests were issued with fixed penalty notices. A dispersal order remains in place until midday.
In Sheffield, police said they broke up a gathering of 70 people in a flat big enough for six people. “All issued fixed penalty tickets!” police
In east London, police in Newham shut down a “large unlicensed music event” at a building in the Royal Docks. Arrests were made and the organiser of the event could face a £10,000 fine.
In Bromley, south-east London, three vans full of sound equipment were seized and 11 “Covid tickets”were issued and one arrest was made for “abstracting electricity” at another unlicensed music event. In the east London borough of Barking, six people were fined for Covid breaches at a house party. A “car meet” in neighbouring Redbridge led to four fines.
Despite the incidents in and around the capital, Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said New Year’s Eve in London was “quite quiet”. He said sporadic gatherings of people “who just won’t take note of what is being said” were quickly dealt with.
Speaking to to BBC Breakfast, Marsh said: “I think the public have really cottoned on that this is really serious, the position that we are in, and we did not see the numbers we thought we would.”
He said the number of officers who were off with Covid-19 or self-isolating had been peaking over the last three or four weeks.
He told the programme: “We have got probably 1,200 or 1,300 officers who are off with Covid or self-isolating and that is predicted to double in the next couple of weeks, and puts a massive strain on my colleagues who are still at work performing their roles. There are no other officers available other than what is in the pot.”