Police across the UK have made several arrests and issued hundreds of fines for New Year’s Eve parties and large gatherings that breached strict Covid regulations.
Parties were broken up in Brighton, Manchester, Leicestershire, Sheffield, Essex, London and Lancashire where breaches of stay-at-home guidelines occurred. In Edinburgh, hundreds of people gathered around the castle despite warnings to keep away.
But according to the Police Federation, officers were pleasantly surprised more illegal gatherings did not take place.
Greater Manchester police issued more than 100 fixed penalty notices for Covid regulation breaches during a busy night for the force. The incidents included a rave at a building in an industrial estate in Wigan, several house parties across the Greater Manchester area, and a pub in Stockport that breached tier 4 rules by continuing to serve customers.
Chris Sykes, the assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said: “I’m sure the right-thinking majority of our residents will join me in condemning this irresponsible behaviour, which puts lives at risk.”
Leicestershire police said they had handed out 75 fixed penalty notices (FPN) over new year, totalling almost £74,000. In a 24-hour period, the force received 191 reports of Covid breaches by the public.
Police in Brighton and Hove issued 66 FPNs overnight but thanked the “vast majority” of people for staying at home.
The FPNs ranged from outdoor gatherings of groups in public spaces, to private parties and people travelling in from outside the area. Several were issued to groups gathering on Brighton beach in breach of the restrictions, although there was no large-scale event on the seafront, police said.
Essex police said they arrested five people overnight and issued £18,000-worth of fines for Covid breaches.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet said: “I’d like to firstly thank everyone across Essex who stayed at home and did the right thing last night. Unfortunately, there were others who decided to blatantly flout the coronavirus rules and regulations and, ultimately, they decided that partying was more important than protecting other people.”
The force said officers had objects thrown at them when they broke up an illegal gathering of hundreds of people at a church in Thorndon Park. Three men were arrested for drugs offences.
Officers later broke up a party of about 100 people at an abandoned warehouse in Brentwood, where two people were arrested.
A woman was issued with a £10,000 fine for organising a house party for 100 people in Sewardstonebury, Epping Forest. More than 25 guests were issued with FPNs. A dispersal order remains in place until midday.
The organiser of a party for 80 people at a rural property in Hyndburn, near Blackburn, was issued with a £10,000 fine. Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods, of Lancashire police, described the party as a “shocker”.
In Sheffield, police said they broke up a gathering of 70 people in a flat big enough for six people. “All issued fixed penalty tickets!” police tweeted.
The Metropolitan police said they had attended calls to 58 unlicensed music events and 217 people were handed FPNs. Another five people were reported for a possible £10,000 fine for organising large gatherings.
In east London, police in Newham shut down a “large unlicensed music event” at a building in the Royal Docks. Arrests were made and the organiser of the event could face a £10,000 fine.
In Bromley, south-east London, three vans full of sound equipment were seized and 11 “Covid tickets” were issued, and one arrest was made for “abstracting electricity” at another unlicensed music event. In the east London borough of Barking, six people were fined for Covid breaches at a house party. A “car meet” in neighbouring Redbridge led to four fines.
Despite the incidents in and around the capital, Ken Marsh, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said New Year’s Eve in London was “quite quiet”. He said sporadic gatherings of people “who just won’t take note of what is being said” were dealt with quickly.
Speaking to to BBC Breakfast, Marsh said: “I think the public have really cottoned on that this is really serious, the position that we are in, and we did not see the numbers [gathering] we thought we would.”
He said the number of officers who were off with Covid-19 or self-isolating had been rising over the last three or four weeks.
He told the programme: “We have got probably 1,200 or 1,300 officers who are off with Covid or self-isolating and that is predicted to double in the next couple of weeks, and puts a massive strain on my colleagues who are still at work performing their roles. There are no other officers available other than what is in the pot.”