Mourners at funeral fined more than £10,000 under Covid lockdown laws

·3-min read
Attendance at funerals was limited under Covid laws (PA) (PA Wire)
Attendance at funerals was limited under Covid laws (PA) (PA Wire)

Mourners at a funeral during the third national lockdown were fined more than £10,000 after being prosecuted under Covid laws, it has emerged.

Essex Police brought criminal cases to court after officers moved in to disperse the gathering at the Stanford-Le-Hope cemetery in Corringham on March 12 last year.

Michael Delaney, 46, and Gerald Connor, 51, both from Derby, were prosecuted alongside Barney McGinley, 31, from Taunton, Daniel Sheridan, 39, of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, and Patrick Sheridan, 56, from Gerrards Cross in Essex.

Each defendant was convicted under the government’s emergency Covid laws, and issued with a £1760 fine as well as being ordered to pay a £176 victim surcharge and £90 in costs, bringing the total legal bill to £10,130.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)
Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)

Court documents uncovered by the Evening Standard show each of the defendants was prosecuted at Chelmsford magistrates court after failing to pay an initial £200 fixed penalty notice for attending the funeral.

“I attended the funeral due to reports that there were large numbers of travellers who had attended a funeral,” said PC Patrick Stead.

“The regulations at the time under the health protection regulations were that no more than 30 people could attend a funeral.

“On arrival, I could see that there were approximately 100 people at the funeral.”

The PC said he accosted Connor who was issue with a Fixed Penalty Notice in March 2021 which was not paid within 28 days. However, in a statement dated August 2021, the PC admitted the wrong offence had been entered in error on to the FPN.

The funeral attendees pursued by the police were accused of breaking the requirements of the Tier 4 lockdown, by gathering in a group of more than two people.

The law at the time permitted funerals under an exemption, but stated that no more than 30 mourners were permitted.

The prosecutions were all brought under the Single Justice Procedure (SJP), allowing a magistrate sitting behind closed doors to decide cases based on paperwork and written submissions.

Records show an average of just over seven minutes was spent deciding each case during the SJP session in November last year.

Among the other prosecutions were 13 people who attended a gender reveal party in the back garden of a home in Basildon, Essex on April 24, 2021, when the county was under Step 2 restrictions.

“When we arrived I could hear loud music coming from the back garden of the address, I could also see smoke rising from the garden of the premises as if a barbeque was being used,” said PC Adam Blackwell, in a statement to the court.

“I could also hear loud voices, laughing and the sounds of a party coming from the garden. It was clear that a party was taking place.”

The officer said he was “shocked” when he peered over the fence to see “a large party in full swing”.

“I had a clear view and saw a balloon arch, gazebos, bbq, buffet table, people were drinking alcoholic drinks and was a general party atmosphere,” he wrote, saying guests became “very annoyed” when the party was broken up.

“People were also going in and out of the house. People starting to run into the house when they saw me. I spoke to someone over the fence who said it was a gender reveal party.”

Twelve guests at the party, including a pregnant woman, were prosecuted for breaking the Covid rules and were each handed a £660 fine plus costs and a court surcharge.

A thirteenth guest entered a guilty plea and was fined £200 by the court.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting