Coach operator reported after illegal Manchester event

Greater Manchester Police have reported a coach driver and operator in Cumbria for carrying people to a gathering in which several police officers were injured.

The gathering on Sunday (8 November) saw 600 people in Piccadilly Gardens contravening the current lockdown restrictions and the Tier 3 restrictions for the city. The police at first tried to warn the organiser and attendees that the gathering was illegal, being ignored and forcing the police to issue a Section 34 Dispersal Order, which was also ignored.

“Enquiries have established that one group of attendees travelled to Greater Manchester from Cumbria via coach. The driver and the company they work for have both been reported to the relevant industry regulator,” said a police update. During the course of their duties, several officers were injured.

“This is unacceptable behaviour towards our officers who were simply doing their job and protecting people. Investigators will now work to identify those responsible and ensure they face justice.”

Four people at the event were fined £200, but police are now following up to identify the organiser, and can issue fines of up to £10,000 to organisers. Already, more than 20,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) have been issued.

Peter Woodhouse, of legal firm Stone King LLP, said: “The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 provide for a range of fixed penalties up to £10,000. Regulation 10 provides that: ‘No person may hold, or be involved in the holding of, a relevant gathering.’ Under Regulation 20 the fixed penalty for a breach of Regulation 10 is £10,000.

“I note that the matter has been referred to the regulator, which, of course will be the Traffic Commissioner and so the TC’s regulatory powers will also be in play.”

A Confederation of Passenger Transport spokesperson said: “The Safer Transport Guidance for Operators states that operators can only provide transport for legally permitted reasons, which includes travelling to work, education, medical appointments, for essential shopping, and exercise.

“Government guidance states that the police will be able to take action against individuals who participate in illegal gatherings, including issuing fixed penalty notices. There is currently no penalty set out in legislation that impacts operators but the relevant Traffic Commissioner may decide to investigate any incident reported to them.

“Operators should review their risk assessments regularly to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate, and ensure that journeys are made for the legally permitted reasons set out by the Government.”

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