Watch: Priti Patel announces new clampdown on house parties
The government is introducing a new £800 fine for people who attend house parties during the coronavirus lockdown.
The fines will apply to people at “illegal gatherings of more than 15 people in homes”, home secretary Priti Patel said at a Downing Street press conference.
“The science is clear,” she said.
“Such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to public health, not only to those in attendance but also to our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down.
“We will not stand by while small numbers of individuals put others at risk.”
The fines will double for repeat offenders, up to a maximum £6,400. They will apply from next week.
Welcoming the announcement, Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said large gatherings such as house parties are “dangerous, irresponsible, and totally unacceptable”.
He told the Downing Street briefing: “I hope that the likelihood of an increased fine acts as a disincentive for those people who are thinking of attending or organising such events.”
Hewitt said officers will not “waste time” trying to reason with people breaking the rules in such a way.
A University College London study last week found the majority of people are in fact sticking to the rules.
During the pandemic, ministers including Boris Johnson have been accused of blaming the public for breaking the rules as infections have risen.
Patel’s announcement prompted Prof Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage group, to say:
Oi Priti et al - STOP BLAMING THE PUBLIC! illegal parties are rare! large majority people complying. YOU have allowed people to do far more than in Spring. Blame the rules not the public.
Oh and pay people properly to isolate so that they can afford to get tested & stay home.
— Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) January 21, 2021
When a reporter at the briefing also suggested the government is “blaming the public for breaking the rules”, Hewitt issued a strong rebuttal.
“I would be really clear,” he said, “I have not and we have never blamed the public from the outset of this. We have worked with the public. That’s been the stance we have taken for the last 10 months.
“As has already been said, the vast majority of people are trying their level best to follow the rules.”
He said “we have to focus on those people who are deliberately breaching those rules and are putting people at risk” as he pointed to the latest daily death toll. Another 1,290 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test were announced shortly before the press conference.
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