A police chief has defended fining relatives of victims of the Birmingham pub bombings for breaching coronavirus restrictions at a memorial event despite the force apparently allowing it to go ahead.
Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the IRA attack in 1974, was slapped with a £200 fixed penalty notice alongside six others after the memorial in November - during the second coronavirus lockdown.
West Midlands Police issued the fines after Hambleton and other relatives of the 21 people killed in the atrocity held a convoy through Birmingham to mark the anniversary of the bombings on November 21 last year.
But on Sunday West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd defended the decision.
He said: “We’re aware of a letter which has been sent to our Chief Constable by two local MPs.
“A number of fixed penalty notices were issued following a gathering outside West Midlands Police headquarters on 21 November.
“Following a review, the people present were found to be in breach of regulation nine of coronavirus legislation. This relates to gatherings of more than two people in a public place.”
He said police had been given advanced notice of a planned convoy of vehicles in Birmingham on November 21, which was deemed not to be in breach of COVID regulations.
But when the convoy paused in Bromsgrove Street, there was a gathering on foot which he said was in breach of restrictions.
“We spoke to the people present and reminded them that such gatherings were in breach of regulations. They left a little while later and so no further action was taken.
"However, a short time later members of the same group gathered again outside West Midlands Police headquarters, in breach of lockdown regulations. Approximately 20 people gathered for around 15 minutes before leaving.”
He said the evidence had been reviewed since November and police had decided that the fine were appropriate - confirming that seven people in total had been issued with a £200 fixed penalty notice.”
He added: “We accept the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest is a key part of any democracy.
“However, coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread.
"We continue to encourage people to comply with the regulations to keep everyone as safe as possible.
“If there are breaches it’s our responsibility to take action.”
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown