Three fined when police break up house party as lockdown eve brings disorder

Three men have been given fixed penalty fines after police broke up a house party in Bristol two hours after the coronavirus lockdown began.

Police said a large group of people ran away from the house in Horfield as police arrived, but three men remained and were given £200 fines for breaching the covid-19 regulations about gatherings and having people in your home.

The incident was one of a number across Bristol and the rest of the Avon and Somerset force area as people packed the city centre and other areas of the city, filling pubs, bars and restaurants on the last night before the lockdown began this morning.

The biggest trouble was in Staple Hill, where officers were forced to put in place a temporary dispersal order to get large groups of people to go home from the High Street at 10.45pm, three-quarters of an hour after the pubs shut – and had numerous confrontations with people who didn’t want to go home.

Across the force area, police attended 41 reports of coronavirus regulation breaches on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, with the biggest concentration of officers in the city centre.

Penn Street on the first day of lockdown
(Image: Robin Murray/Bristol Live)

“In Bristol, officers patrolled the city centre from about 8pm, engaging with groups on College Green, the Harbourside and the city centre and encouraging people to disperse after 10pm when licensed premises closed. Officers continued to patrol the area until 11pm,” said a spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police.

Meanwhile, police were having more trouble getting people to go home in Staple Hill. The full story on an evening of disorder there, is here, but a spokesperson for the police said they had to put a dispersal order in place under section 34 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 at 10.45pm following ‘a number of reports of drunken anti-social behaviour and disorder’.

“The dispersal area included the High Street, Broad Street, Page Road and Page Park,” she said.

“It was brought in following reports of a large group of people smashing bottles, shouting and swearing. Officers were first called just before 10pm to reports of a disturbance in Broad Street and remained in the area until about 11.40pm to ensure the groups had dispersed,” she added.

Two hours after the lockdown came into force at midnight, police were called by local residents to reports of a house party going on in Horfield.

“A group of people fled the property as officers arrived but three men were given fixed penalty notices for COVID breaches while another two were reported for breaches. All were aged in their late teens or early 20s,” she said.

The fines were for £200, and those fined have not been named.

A Night Marshal on the streets of Bath before the second lockdown this week
(Image: Bath BID/Twitter)

Across the force area, the new dedicated Covid-19 units supported patrol teams right across Avon and Somerset – in Frome, Glastonbury, Little Stoke, Radstock, Watchet, Wells, Yate and Yeovil. “Some cases were found not to be breaches, while most of the rest were dealt with by engaging, explaining and encouraging people to comply,” she said.

In Bath, officers were patrolling the city centre from 7.30pm encouraging people gathered in groups to abide by the COVID-19 legislation. Following a number of reports of drunken anti-social behaviour, a section 34 dispersal was put in place and officers remained in the area until 11pm.

In Bridgwater police responded to reports of a group of more than six people who were drunk and abusive towards passers-by on Salmon Parade at about 2.30pm. The group was dispersed by 3pm, with two men, one in his 50s and one in his 30s being given £200 COVID-19 fixed penalty notices.

“The vast majority of people are sticking to the rules and following the guidance that’s in place and we’re extremely grateful for this,” said Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Cullen.

“We are fortunate the number of COVID-19 cases in the South West are not as high as some other parts of the UK, but they are rising and we cannot afford to be complacent.

“The coronavirus legislation is in place to save lives and stop the spread of a virus which has claimed the lives of more than 46,000 people in the UK. We will continue to engage with the public as we have done throughout this crisis, explain the restrictions in place and encourage them to comply.

“But we won’t tolerate flagrant breaches of the regulations. We will move more swiftly to enforcement because we simply cannot allow the selfish actions of a few to jeopardise the determined efforts our communities have put in over the past seven months,” he added.

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