More than 140 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) totalling £39,000 were issued in Tower Hamlets and Hackney in just two days as officers responded to numerous breaches of Coronavirus regulations.
On Friday, 15 January, officers were called to a house party in Brick Lane following reports from neighbours of loud music. After gaining entry, they found more than 40 people cramped inside. The organiser had hired an AirBnB to host the gathering.
Attendees became hostile and three officers were injured. Three arrests were made for possession of a class B substance, breach of coronavirus legislation and assault on an emergency worker. One officer suffered a broken finger which required hospital treatment.
Shockingly, while officers made arrests and dispersed crowds, some of those attending snuck back inside the premises despite being ordered to go home. A closure order was issued to the owner of the property, preventing it being made available for rent for the next three months.
On Saturday, 16 January, officers attended a place of worship in Stamford Hill, Hackney following reports from members of the public. They found evidence of a large party on the premises being cleared away by staff.
Officers returned to the property later the same day and found further evidence of another large party. The organiser was reported for consideration of a £10,000 FPN.
Neighbourhood officers continue to engage with places of worship and relevant organisations in the area in order to educate and remind people of the rules on gathering for religious services.
At other points during the weekend, officers took enforcement action or referred matters to the local authority following breaches at a number of non-essential businesses.
In Tower Hamlets, a mobile phone shop was open and serving customers. Officers also had to intervene and disperse a queue at a bubble tea shop which had attracted between 60 and 80 people.
In Dalston, a pub was found to be open and serving customers indoors.
Acting Chief Inspector Pete Shaw, Covid lead for Central East BCU, said: “We are almost twelve months into this global pandemic and frankly the rules we must all follow have never been clearer. It is safe to assume that the people who broke the rules this weekend did so willingly and in doing so, put their lives and those of their community at risk.
“Currently, the spread of coronavirus in London is out of control. Hospitals, paramedics and medical professionals across the UK are working tirelessly to meet the needs of people who are extremely ill with the virus. To organise and attend parties and to open non-essential businesses is an insult to these people.
“What shocks me is that people are willing to break these rules and astoundingly, then assault my officers who are doing their best to help keep this virus at bay – wherever possible. We will absolutely not tolerate assault on police officers. It goes without saying that anyone who harms an emergency worker will face the full force of the law.
“I would like to thank Hackney Council and Tower Hamlets Council for their support in delivering this weekend of action. Through our partnership with them, we have been able to take swift and appropriate enforcement action in those cases where people have very clearly and very deliberately broken the rules.”
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The Covid-19 measures have been put in place to save lives and protect the NHS. The vast majority of residents in our borough are taking the situation seriously, so it’s only right that we take appropriate action against those flouting the rules and putting people’s lives at risk. We will continue to work with local police to enforce the Covid-19 lockdown so we can keep Tower Hamlets safe.”
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, said: “While the majority of residents are adhering to the coronavirus regulations and staying at home, the council and police have been working together over the past ten months to ensure that the vital public health rules are followed in public.
“Although the council doesn’t have the power to take action against individuals who are not complying with social distancing guidance, we are deploying our officers to advise residents, assist the police and support businesses. This is just one of the ways in which partnership working is helping to ensure that residents and businesses are clear on – and following – the Government’s guidelines.
“I would like to commend and thank the council and Metropolitan Police officers involved in this work, which is playing a central role in the fight against this terrible virus. We will continue working with our partners in the police to reduce the spread of coronavirus and to help keep Hackney safe, but residents and businesses all have a duty to do their bit too.”