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Local News

West Yorkshire is hotbed of large-scale illegal Covid gatherings


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West Yorkshire Police have been forced to break up more large-scale Covid parties than any other force outside London throughout the pandemic.

The latest figures released by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) reveal how officers have handed out 31 fines for illegal gatherings across the county. Only London (85) saw more.

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The troubling figures reveal how West Yorkshire has been a hotspot for events of more than 30 people over the past year.

New laws were introduced in July 2020 restricting gatherings to a maximum of 30 people, although a number of subsequent restrictions have since made the maximum group size even smaller than this.

Organisers of the large-scale events can be fined up to £10,000 if they are found guilty.

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In August last year, eight people were fined £10,000 each after police raided three parties in Leeds. Two young men who organised a mass snowball fight on Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, were also hit with £10,000 fines in January 2020.

No such fines have been handed out in North Yorkshire, while just eight have been issued in South Yorkshire.

But the figures for West Yorkshire place it as the second-worst region in England for illegal big-scale events – only beaten by the capital.

In fact, the county is the worst-offending region in Yorkshire when all coronavirus fixed penalty notices (FPNs) are taken into consideration. This includes people refusing to wear face masks, close contacts not self-isolating and smaller illegal gatherings.

Covid FPNs by force


Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 4,125 FPNs have been issued in West Yorkshire. Over the same timeframe, 3,896 have been handed out in North Yorkshire and 2,545 in South Yorkshire.

Across England as a whole, almost 100,000 coronavirus fines have been issued. The latest figures, released by the National Police Chiefs Council, show that 99,742 FPNs were recorded by police forces across England between March 27, 2020, and April 18, 2021.

A further 10,580 fines have been dished out in Wales, bringing the total to more than 110,000.

Police can fine people up to £200 if they do not wear face masks in indoor public spaces
Police can fine people up to £200 if they do not wear face masks in indoor public spaces
(Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The NPCC said “there were steep rises in the number of FPNs” issued in the week leading up to Christmas and again when the country was plunged into lockdown for the third time at the start of 2021.

“The number of FPNs issued began to rise again following the tightening of national restrictions on the 6th January 2021,” says a report.

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However, a cross-party group of MPs has criticised the current guidelines for handing out Covid fines – and even questioned their validity.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said the fines are “muddled, discriminatory and unfair” and called for an urgent review into how they are policed.

Committee chairman Harriet Harman said: “Swift action to make restrictions effective is essential in the face of this terrible virus.

“But the government needs to ensure that rules are clear, enforcement is fair and that mistakes in the system can be rectified.

“None of that is the case in respect of Covid-19 fixed penalty notices.”

Written by: Rother Radio News

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