Restrictions on Holding of Gatherings – from 28 August 2020 £10,000 fines

Fiction:

Only rave organisers can be fined £10,000 for holding a rave.

Law:

Catching up with announcements of ‘fines from tomorrow’ made nearly 2 weeks ago, regulations have been published providing a fine of £10,000 for anyone ‘holding’ or ‘involved in holding ‘ an indoor rave. These apply from 28 August 2020.  Going much further, however, and unannounced by the Prime Minister or any Minister, that fine is extended to anyone ‘holding’ or ‘involved in holding’ a gathering of more than 30 people at home or in a public space.

Mere attendance at the gathering is not regarded as being involved in holding it. However, merely ‘participating’ in the gathering will attract a fine of £100. (In this respect, the regulations already allowed for increasing tariffs up to £3,200 for multiple gathering offences.  The government has now also added this in respect of face covering. It really is almost impossible even for lawyers to keep up with this law and fiction…)

Gatherings in houses and in public outdoor spaces

Gatherings of more than 30 people are allowed anywhere in England unless there is a specific prohibition. Unfortunately, those prohibitions are extensive though they have not changed from the regulations in place since 4th July 2020. They include (read through these quickly then come back again):

  • private dwellings
  • public outdoor places which are not operated by (or part of premises used for operation of) a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body as a visitor attraction
  • raves indoors

Exceptions to the above are made, broadly, for gatherings

  • for elite sportspersons
  • necessary for work, charitable purposes, education and childcare
  • reasonably necessary for purposes of education or training
  • in such public outdoor places where both (a) a written health and safety risk assessment has been undertaken and (b) all reasonable measures have been taken to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus taking account of government guidance*
Heavy handed fines, completely unaffordable to most

‘Private dwelling’ is partially defined but essentially would mean private living accommodation i.e. homes. It also extends to any ‘outhouse or appurtenance of the dwelling’.

Since a gathering of more than 30 in a home is prohibited, a householder may find it difficult to escape a £10,000 fine for being ‘involved in holding’ such a gathering in their home difficult unless someone took over the house while they were away and without permission. They will likely have stayed away and everyone who did turn up poured their own drinks.

Indoor gatherings not in homes

‘Private dwellings’ specifically does not include hotels etc. It does not include indoor business premises. There is no restriction on gatherings of more than 30 people in, for example

  • pubs, restaurants and hotels
  • churches and local halls
  • clubs, hotel ballrooms are other venues while they cease to provide their venue for dancing (schedule 2, paragraphs 1 and 2)
  • conference centres and exhibition halls
  • theatres and cinemas (which even since 4th July have not been prohibited from opening their doors)

It is therefore permissible to have a gathering in any of such places if only they can persuade the venue owner to let them. Readers of other posts on this site will appreciate already that there is also no general legal obligation on anyone to follow any social distancing guidance indoors or on the way to the venue. (Also see this post on social distancing.)

Public protests

Gatherings of over 30 in public spaces remain banned. So a gathering that may be permitted indoors in a business space is prohibited outdoors unless the numbers are dropped to 30 or less or (a) they operate as [a charity or a business etc.] and (b) a written risk assessment has been undertaken and (c) government guidance on social distancing is observed.*

The new regulation seems to mean that not just rave organisers, but anyone involved in holding, say, a street party, a BLM or anti-lockdown or extinction rebellion protests, or a mass singing of Rule Brittania, can be issued with a £10,000 fine.  Hi viz jackets, loud hailers, walkie talkies and other devices useful to help keep crowds safe are likely to become rather unfashionable. Of course, this, like every other set of Coronavirus regulations has been passed as a matter of urgent need and without any impact assessment…

*Note this was a new and unusual requirement in the England regulations. The legal requirement to ‘take account’ of guidance (as opposed to the Wales regulations requirement to ‘have regard to’ (heaven help us all!) does not pervade other activities in the UK. Further, this is not the normal purpose of a risk assessment more commonly required under health and safety regulations. It is the health and safety risk assessment that takes as its starting point that there is a significant danger from coronavirus which is the biggest barrier to gathering and to a return to normality. See further our detailed post on Risk assessments: an important chink in the lockdown armour

Wales Welsh Flag Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

By contrast, in Wales the same £10,000 fine is introduced from 28 August 2020 but the drafting restricts this fine to being involved in organising a relevant unlicensed music event.

 

Warning: Law and circumstances can change very quickly.  Please note the date of publication of any blog post and check for any updates on the issues addressed. In any event, we do not condone or encourage breaching the law and neither the above nor any information posted on this website constitutes legal advice. It must not be relied upon as such and specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Please read our disclaimer.

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2 thoughts on “Restrictions on Holding of Gatherings – from 28 August 2020 £10,000 fines”

  1. The £100 and £10,000 specified in SI 2020 No. 907 aren’t fines but fixed penalty notices. Only a court may impose a fine. Why wouldn’t you refuse the FPN and have your day in court if £10,000 is at stake?

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