House party fines: what are the rules as Priti Patel announces £800 fine - and what’s the maximum penalty?
The fines will be introduced with immediate effect from 22 January
On 21 January, Home Secretary Priti Patel warned that anyone found to be at a house party of more than 15 people will be fined £800.
At a media briefing at 10 Downing Street, she described a minority of people who are still socialising, as “choose not to do the right thing.”
But what are the terms of the new fine and who could be charged? Here is everything you need to know.
What is the new £800 fine?
Patel announced that anyone found to be congregating in a group of 15 or more at a private property could receive the penalty.
For those who choose to continue meeting up following an initial £800 fine, the penalty will double each time with a charge of up to £6,400 for repeat offenses.
The Home Secretary said police would be given the power to administer the fines.
She said: “The science is clear, such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to the public - not only to those in attendance, but also to the wonderful police officers who attend to shut down these events.
“From the outset, we have given the police the necessary powers to enforce the rules, which are in place to stop the spread of the virus.
“As this latest measure demonstrates, we will not stand by while a small number of individuals put others at risk.”
Are there other fines for socialising?
Fines for people aged 18 or over found to be meeting up with others include:
- £200 for the first offence, lowered to £100 if paid within 14 days
- £400 for the second offence, then doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400.
The Home Office has now given police in England and Wales a further £20m to ensure they can patrol and manage the requirement to keep people safe from coronavirus.
The police must follow the ‘four Es’ before fining someone who has breached lockdown rules.
The four Es are:
- Engage with people, to ask why they appear to be breaking the rules
- Explain the law, stressing the risks to public health and the NHS
- Encourage them to change their behaviour
- The fourth "E" is "Enforce" by issuing penalty notices, as a last resort.
On 12 January, the Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said those who do not comply with social distancing rules are now "increasingly likely" to be fined by officers.
What are the current rules for meeting friends and family?
At present, you are not permitted to meet your friends or family - except those you live with or a member of your support bubble - for socialising or recreational purposes.
This includes meeting in houses, private or public indoor venues and in private outdoor gardens.
You can enter someone else’s home if you are responsible for providing care or when you are part of a ‘support bubble’.
If exercising, you can meet with one other person outside in an open public space.
Outdoor public spaces include:
- Parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
- Public and botanical gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
- The grounds of a heritage site
- Public playgrounds (primarily open for children who do not have access to a private garden)
A more in depth outline of the current guidelines around meeting up with other people is available on the government website.