A joint operation between the Metropolitan Police and Waltham Forest Council to target venues open in defiance of Covid-19 regulations has resulted in 36 individuals being reported for fines up to £800, with two people facing a possible £10,000 penalty.
An open shutter alerted officers to a group inside a venue on Hoe Street, Walthamstow who were smoking shisha and consuming beverages on the evening of Friday 29 January. Although the trio claimed to be waiting for a food order no evidence of this order was found and all three were reported for £200 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs). The premises was previously found to be open in November 2020 in breach of then-current regulations with fines being reported on this occasion also. The Council will now decide what further action to take in regards to this repeated rule-breaking.
Later in the evening, loud voices gave away the location of a large group of customers drinking and smoking as they waited for grilled food at a premises in High Rd, Leytonstone, E11. Twenty-two people were reported for FPNs of up to £800 each, under new powers authorising the police to give out larger fines for those taking part in larger gatherings, and Council enforcement officers also issued an order closing the food business owing to an array of hygiene issues.
Whilst dealing with the situation in Leytonstone, a special constable received information about a gathering at a venue in Lea Bridge Rd, Leyton. After the team gained entry they found multiple people attempting to hide in a stairwell, with several clambering to escape across a neighbouring extension. Officers found alcohol and a price list on the premises and counted at least 35 people in total. The restless crowd was dispersed safely before two men, the company director and leaseholder of the venue, were each reported for £10,000 FPNs.
Superintendent Waheed Khan, Metropolitan Police, said: “There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that we are in the throes of a deadly pandemic; and the fact some businesses continue to function in direct contradiction of the current restrictions quite frankly beggars belief. Police officers and special constables are working closely with councils and other groups to make sure that the rules – in place to save lives and protect the NHS – are being followed. Please do your bit to help these officers who are working hard to protect you.”
Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “By this point there can be no-one claiming to be unaware of the serious situation we are in and the responsibilities we all have to try and stop the spread of Covid-19. I am disappointed to say the least to see that council officers, police colleagues, and special constables are yet again having to risk their safety because a small minority of people simply do not give a damn about others.
“I know this is not an easy time for anyone. Business want to trade, children want to socialise, and families and friends want to meet and be together. However, we all want to keep our most vulnerable friends, family, and neighbours safe so they can celebrate with us. The vaccine is currently being rolled out and we can see light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel – it is simply irresponsible to jeopardise people’s safety at this point.”
In total £49,400 of potential FPNs were reported during the evening alongside one penalty notice for possession of cannabis.