NHS nurse: 'I was given a £10,000 COVID fine - but I will take it to the High Court'

·2-min read

As a seasoned union rep in the NHS, Karen Reissmann knew that there would be hoops to jump through organising a street protest during the pandemic.

The news that NHS workers would be receiving a 1% pay rise was why she was determined to hold one.

After a year fighting COVID-19, she believed healthcare workers had to make their voices heard somehow.

It was the 7 March - just before schools were due to welcome almost all students back to the classrooms.

In the spring sunshine, Ms Reissmann and her team put out cones in St Peter's Square in the middle of Manchester to ensure social distancing.

There was a plan they'd put together to try and ensure everyone's safety.

Initially, police officers told her to carry on with the protest but when senior officers were informed they declared the gathering unlawful.

There were 40 people in the square.

It was against the letter of the COVID-19 rules but the organisers also knew that many other protests had gone ahead and had seen common sense prevail.

At the point when a police sergeant told her that it was deemed to be an unlawful gathering Ms Reissmann says she agreed to close the demo down and people then went home.

She told Sky News: "As I was leaving, a police officer called me to one side and said 'Can I have a quiet word? I want to give you a £10,000 fixed penalty notice'... my jaw dropped.

"They threatened to report me to my employer and the Nursing & Midwifery Council so they were threatening my job and they were threatening my livelihood as a nurse."

After a review of the case, Ms Reissmann told Sky News that Greater Manchester Police decided the fine was still "proportionate and lawful".

She added: "Somebody calculated for me that if I used my 1% pay rise to pay it, it would take me 56 years of that 1% to pay off the fine - it is a huge amount for ordinary working people."

Since the fine was issued a crowdfunding campaign has raised well over £30,000 for the nurse to fight the legal case against the fine.

"The real super-spreading events have been in businesses inside," she said, "not at outdoor events".

"I think the fine system is designed by the government to pass the buck for their failings - as if 40 people standing two metres apart are the cause for COVID when we know that they are not."

"I'm not going to just lie down and accept it. I will take it to the High Court."

Greater Manchester Police has been contacted for comment.