Church group organiser handed £10,000 fine for holding car park service despite police warning

Ellen Manning
·3-min read
Shot of the back of a police officer's jacket with the word police written across the back
Police in Nottingham handed the organiser of the church group a £10,000 fine for breaching COVID restrictions. (Stock image: Getty)

Police have fined the organiser of a church group's meet-up in a car park £10,000 for breaching coronavirus restrictions. 

Nottinghamshire Police said the fine was issued after the event went ahead on Saturday despite previous warnings. 

The force said it had been advising the religious group for several weeks about how they could worship during lockdown and that a car park did not qualify as a place of worship under COVID rules.

But when officers arrived at the scene in Bulwell, Nottingham, they found around 30 people, with a tent set up, a sound system to play music and food being served. 

It isn't the first £10,000 fine handed out by Nottinghamshire Police - in September a teenager who hosted a house party with dozens of guests was issued with a similar fine.

Watch: Nottingham party host fined £10,000

Unlike the first national lockdown in March last year, the latest COVID rules allow people to leave home to visit a place of worship for communal worship.

However, in its statement, Nottinghamshire Police said while the rules allow people to attend places of worship, the car park used by the group, reported to be the 'Church on the Streets' group, was clearly not one. 

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Inspector James Walker said: "Over the past few weeks we have been advising this group, having been made aware of events they have held in Bulwell.

"Initially, we have been engaging, explaining and encouraging as to the importance of following the current national lockdown restrictions, which is to protect the NHS, save lives and keep people safe. This has been our immediate approach throughout the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to be.

"Over the last week in particular, we have absolutely clarified that these events are not allowed, and we have since made it explicitly clear that whilst we wholeheartedly support the number of religious groups that can be found in our communities, there are certain restrictions that must be adhered to in order to keep people safe.

"Whilst the rules state you can attend places of worship, this car park is evidently not a place of worship and, despite the warnings given over the last week in particular, this event continued to go ahead and that is why today we have implemented our last resort of enforcement."

He added: "We do recognise that the majority of the local public are adhering to the current restrictions that are in place and we thank those people that are doing so for their patience during what is a difficult time for everyone."

According to the BBC, the church's pastor Chez Weir has said she will contest the fine as people who had attended had stayed in their cars.

She said: "We've looked at the guidelines and they are very vague. I'm really disappointed.

"I'm going to challenge it because I don't believe I've done anything wrong."

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown