Neighbours have reacted to the news that a wedding at an Essex venue broke the law with 80 guests.
Essex Police were called to Ariana Gardens in Ivy Barn Lane, Margaretting at around 4pm yesterday afternoon with reports of a wedding party with 80 guests.
Police quickly broke up the party when they discovered the guests enjoying a sit-down dinner at the venue.
The current Covid-19 law rules that weddings are capped at a maximum of 15 guests – which this party considerably exceeded.
Police identified the wedding organiser as a 41-year-old man, who was found to have planned the party which broke the current law.
He was reported for summons to court for holding a gathering of more than 15 people in breach of Coronavirus legislation.
It makes him the first person in Essex to have received the £10,000 fine for organising a large gathering.
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“It’s like rabbits breeding”
Residents living nearby to Ariana Gardens have reacted to the news with shock and anger.
Roger and Pat down the road had no idea that there had even been a wedding until they heard the news.
“We saw a security man up there but didn’t see many cars,” Roger said.
“It’s a tiny space but they can have up to 200 in there, they used to block the road for weddings.
“I’m not shocked [by the fine] if you’re going to do something like that, you will get that.
“I think that is an awful lot of people and you think that many people in there – it’s like rabbits breeding.”
Pat added: “We have been really careful, we are not going out, only going out when we have to, to get food and wear a mask.
“It does make you cross. I’m not surprised by anything any more now though.”
Similarly to Pat and Roger, Ian Brownjohn hadn’t realised there had even been a wedding there last night.
“I didn’t hear anything happening, I had no idea there was a wedding,” the 50-year-old said.
“We don’t normally hear music but we usually hear the cars revving.
“Not surprised at all they were fined, if they organise events like that then they should be paying.
“It’s a hell of a lot of money though. It’s excessive but obviously, it’s not stopping people.”
More than anything breaches like this show why cases are rising, Ian said.
“I do care about it because people have got to use common sense and that’s what they are not doing,” he said.
“That’s what caused Covid to have another spike in the first place because people not using their common sense.
“All I can say is it serves them right. They know the rules, if they do it then that’s what happens – I couldn’t afford that.
“If I had a wedding then I would have to cancel. We couldn’t go to a funeral the other day, we had to watch it from here.
Another anonymous resident nearby agreed that the fine was needed but appalled to hear what had happened.
“It is a bit shocking,” they said.
“It’s right to have the fine. I have stayed in and it makes me cross, I am really quite angry.”
EssexLive has made attempts to contact Ariana Gardens for comment.
‘A blatant breach of current restrictions’
Essex Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet branded the event a ‘selfish’ act after many people have missed weddings over the past six months.
He said: “This wedding party was a blatant breach of the current restrictions which only allows for 15 people to be present at a wedding.
“The legislation exists for a reason, which is to stop the spread of the virus and to protect our communities as we all work together to drive down the risk of infection.
“Throughout the last more than six months many of us have missed weddings, funerals, special events and the opportunity to see our wider family and friends – it has been hard for all of us.
“But while the majority of people in Essex continue to do all they can to support us and help stop the spread of the virus, a selfish few think they can flout the rules with no thought for the health risk posed by their actions.”
He added: “Throughout the last few months we have taken every opportunity to engage with our residents and explain where we have found them not following rules, enforcement has always been a last resort and reserved only for those flagrantly or persistently breaking the law.
“In situations such as this, a large wedding organised with no regard for the law, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action as we do all we can to keep the people of Essex safe.”
Essex Police has said that they are continuing to encourage people to report breaches of coronavirus laws to them.
However, they have asked people to make sure they know enough about the situation and that they aren’t misreading it before reporting.
To report a breach you should use their Digital 101 service, where you can speak to one of their operators online live time, between 7am and 11pm.
You can also make a report on the police website.