Magistrate throws out teenager’s £10,000 Covid fine for holding a rule-breaking party as she blasts CPS and police for mishandling case
- Isaac Parsons, 19, was accused of holding a get-together at his home last year
- Wiltshire Police had said between 80 and 100 people were in attendance
- At the time it was an offence to have more than 30 people in a private dwelling
- On September 4 police posted on Facebook they had issued the £10,000 fine
- The fine was initially appealed by the family and their solicitor asked for a dismissal on grounds that the wrong sections of law were quoted in the fine
- CPS wanted to amend this, but judge refused – stating the case wouldn’t have ever come to court if the correct law was used and a £100 fine was issued
A teenager who was fined £10,000 over an alleged Covid-breaking party has had it thrown out by a magistrate – who said police ‘bandied’ the big penalties around and blasted the CPS for mishandling the case.
Isaac Parsons, 19, was accused of holding a get-together at his Wiltshire home last year, which police said had between 80 and 100 people in attendance.
On September 4 police posted on Facebook they had issued the £10,000 notice – which would result in a criminal record – for the party after officers were called to the house in Devizes.
At the time, it was an offence to hold a gathering of more than 30 people in a private dwelling, and the teenager had been charged under the Coronavirus Regulations.
The fine was initially appealed by the family and yesterday their solicitor asked for a dismissal ahead of the trial – on the grounds that the wrong sections of law were quoted in the fixed penalty notice.
The Crown Prosecution Service wanted to amend this, but the District Judge at Swindon Magistrates Court refused – stating the case wouldn’t have ever come to court if the correct law was used and a £100 fine was issued.
Isaac’s father Martin Parsons, a Deputy Chairman Political of Devizes Conservative Association, accused Wiltshire Police of ‘misconduct in public office and contempt of court’.
Isaac pleaded not guilty to organising a house party in breach of coronavirus rules in February.
District Judge Joanna Dickens threw it out – and slammed the CPS and police for how it was handled.
Isaac Parsons, 19, was accused of holding a get-together at his Wiltshire home last year, which police said had between 80 and 100 people in attendance
Judge Dickens said: ‘Coronavirus is serious. We’re all worried about it. Never before have I dismissed a charge.
‘For these ten thousand pound penalties, it’s a huge amount of money for people to pay and most people, who are normal people, can’t pay ten thousand pounds.
‘A lot of people would want to appeal that. You would not want to appeal a one hundred pound fine, and most people don’t appeal parking fines.
‘Ultimately, it was clear to me, quite understandably, people do make mistakes, and the CPS, the mistake they are now making is to proceed.
‘If they said to me I’ll just issue another penalty for one hundred pounds, I’d have no problem with that, I would have said fine, but not what they’re asking the court to do.
‘They’re asking, and I want to be clear about that, they’re asking the court to proceed with a prosecution that otherwise would never have happened if it wasn’t for the fact they got it wrong in the first place.
‘It seems to me they’re seeking to get a situation where someone could be guilty, have a criminal record in circumstances where they would not have otherwise got one because it’s led by the Crown’s own mistake. I appreciate it’s a genuine mistake.
‘I do want to make an observation that a ten thousand pound fine, if they’re going to be issued, they should at the very least contain the correct and relevant sections [of law] to allow people to work out what their rights to appeal are.
‘This case does worry me, and trouble me, that there could be a situation where other ten thousand pound fines have been bandied about by police in circumstances where they shouldn’t have been.
‘It’s a matter for the police whether they research into those other ones, they may or may not have imposed during this time.
‘Nothing of what I have said is intended in any way to suggest that breaking coronavirus rules is anything less than a serious matter for us all.
‘That’s my comment. It’s a very unusual case for the court to not amend a charge in the interests of justice.
‘There’s a lot of case law on it and the leading case says you should normally amend, but the court does have a wider jurisdiction in relation to the interests of justice and for those reasons, that’s my reasoning for not allowing [the amendment].’
Issac’s father said he did not want to comment further today.
Issac pleaded not guilty to organising a house party in breach of coronavirus rules in February
The District Judge at Swindon Magistrates Court said the case wouldn’t have ever come to court if the correct law was used and a £100 fine was issued
Speaking at the time, he said: ‘I have made a formal complaint to them (the police) that they have published completely false information, not just on that, but on a number of issues which potentially compromises a future court case.
‘What Wiltshire Police put on their Facebook page is subject to a formal complaint and is being investigated by Professional Standards.’
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said it was ‘surprised’ by the dismissal and will seek a review with the CPS.
They said: ‘Yesterday at Swindon Magistrates Court, a £10,000 fine issued by Wiltshire Police for potential breaches to the Coronavirus Regulations was dismissed.
‘The fine relates to an incident in Devizes on September 4, at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, when officers were called to a significant gathering at a residential property which took place against the COVID regulations.
‘The fine, which was issued to the organiser of the event, was contested and resulted in yesterday’s court hearing where the judge dismissed the case.
‘Whilst respecting the court’s decision, Wiltshire Police were surprised by yesterday’s decision relative to the circumstances that officers were presented with at this incident.
‘Further to the fine being contested, the CPS independently reviewed the available evidence and authorised a charge as is routine in such cases.
‘We will now be urgently looking to understand why the case was dismissed by the court and are seeking an urgent meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service to review this case.
‘Our policing response to the ongoing public health pandemic will continue to be robust, proportionate and consistent. It remains vital that everyone takes personal responsibility for their actions and adheres to the restrictions which are in place.’
A CPS spokesperson said: “We note the judge’s comments and are examining what happened in this case before deciding next steps.
“The CPS also conducts a monthly review of all finalised coronavirus cases to ensure that the right person is charged with the right offence.”
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