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Watch: 200 defy lockdown rules in mass snowball fight
Two men involved in organising a mass snowball fight have each been given £10,000 fines for a “blatant breach” of lockdown rules.
West Yorkshire Police said the unnamed 20-year-old and 23-year-old were tracked down after hundreds of people gathered for more than two hours on Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, on 14 January, creating “a significant and completely unnecessary risk of increasing the spread of the virus”.
The snowball fight was filmed and widely shared on social media, provoking widespread condemnation as England endured freezing temperatures and strict lockdown rules, with many blaming students for the event.
A force spokesman said the 23-year-old had already received a fine in November for breaching restrictions in relation to mixing households at an address in the nearby Hyde Park area.
He said both men were interviewed on Wednesday and Thursday in relation to the incident and reported for fixed penalty notices to be issued.
Organising any gathering of more than 30 people is illegal and leaves organisers liable to a £10,000 fine under coronavirus legislation, he said.
Leeds’s police commander Chief Superintendent Damien Miller said: “We take absolutely no pleasure in handing out such heavy fines to these two young men but their actions encouraged hundreds of people to be in close proximity to each other, creating a significant and completely unnecessary risk of increasing the spread of the virus.
“It was a blatant breach of the legislation that is in place to help keep people safe at what remains a critical time for us all.
“The event attracted understandable media attention and widespread public condemnation of all those who irresponsibly took part.
“That said, it remains clear that the vast majority of people recognise the need for collective responsibility and are continuing to stick with the regulations that are there to protect our families and our communities.
“We will continue our approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance but we won’t hesitate to enforce the law where people blatantly disregard the rules and put others at risk.”
Photographer Liam Ford, who filmed the snowball fight, told Yahoo News UK on the day it happened that it was an “abuse” of people’s limited freedoms during the national lockdown.
He told this website: “My girlfriend and I had gone out for a walk, with the restrictions it was nice to get some fresh air.
“At about 2pm we started walking around the outskirts of the park and heard a bit of a commotion, lots of shouting and screaming.
“Being curious we walked into the centre of the park and saw a mass group of people having a big snowball fight.
“Within a large park you do expect to see some people there, but not a mass group of people having a snowball fight. It’s obviously breaking the rules with such a large quantity in a small area.”
He added: “With the current restrictions it’s a bit of an abuse of freedom, given the current climate.”
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown