People were prosecuted and fined up to £1,100 for illegal gatherings on the same day as Downing Street’s Christmas quiz last year, court documents show.
Boris Johnson helped host the event, which took place virtually but allegedly saw quiz teams gather in person inside government offices.
London was under tier 2 coronavirus restrictions at the time, meaning there could be no mixing of households indoors other than for work or another reason listed as a legal exemption.
The Metropolitan Police has so far refused to investigate the quiz but other gatherings on the same date, 15 December 2020, resulted in fines and prosecutions.
A 25-year-old woman was fined £1,100 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this month, after being found to have “participated in a gathering, which was indoors and consisted of two or more people, in the tier 2 area of London” that day.
Prashanthi Bhupathiraju, of Woolwich, was not present to argue her case and had no defence lawyer, but a court document said an offence was found “proved” and the fine must be paid by 29 December.
The hearing took place behind closed doors under the controversial single justice procedure, which sees cases decided by a single magistrate, advised by a professional lawyer, based on written evidence provided by the police.
The same procedure was used to fine a 49-year-old man over an “indoor gathering” in Wembley on 15 December 2020. Abdulkadir Sharif Mohamed pleaded guilty and was handed a smaller penalty of £200 as a result.
At least three women, all aged in their 20s, were fined £1,100 each after attending house parties on the same day as the 18 December 2020 Downing Street Christmas party.
None of them had pleaded guilty, and the charges were again found proved at closed single justice procedure hearings at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Cabinet secretary Simon Case has been tasked with investigating alleged gatherings or parties held in government buildings during restrictions, which include a leaving do on 27 November 2020 where the prime minister made a speech.
Several other people were prosecuted and fined £1,100 for parties in London during December last year, including a 44-year-old man caught at a gathering in Barking after the tier 4 restrictions were imposed, and a 20-year-old woman who went to a New Year’s Eve party in Croydon.
The Independent has seen court records showing prosecutions and fines for gatherings last December across the country, including in Hampshire, Norfolk and parts of Wales.
In single justice procedure cases, defendants are notified of the charge by post with a statement setting out the facts of the offence and guidance on what steps to take.
They have the option to plead guilty or ask for a court hearing. If they plead guilty or do not respond within a 21-day time limit, their case will be dealt with through the single justice procedure.
Cases processed under the controversial scheme are not covered by a Crown Prosecution Service review of coronavirus charges, which has found around a third to be unlawful so far.
A letter delivered to the justice secretary earlier this year warned that hundreds or “likely thousands” of people have been convicted for coronavirus offences in their absence, or even without realising as a result.
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