There were three carloads of police in the end,â€ says Gardiner, a 23-year-old care assistant from the small town of Portstewart in Northern Ireland. â€œAnd there were only four of us.â€
It was hardly a wild party, she says â€“ they were just hanging out, listening to music and posting the odd picture to social media â€“ and she doesnâ€™t know who reported them; they werenâ€™t being loud, and they have no close neighbours. They were fined Â£200 each for breaching Covid regulations, deducted automatically in her case from her wages. Gardiner, who works two jobs, says money went from both pay packets, and she is still trying to recoup Â£100 she thinks was wrongly deducted in the confusion.
By last December, police in England and Wales had issued 118,963 fines for breaking Covid regulations â€“ anything from meeting one friend when socialising was banned, through to staging illegal raves, with fines ranging from Â£100 for minor infractions to Â£10,000 for the most egregious, and sometimes more in cases of late payment. In Northern Ireland, police issued more than 8,000 fines over the year to March 2021, and Scottish police handed out more than 12,843 in the year to August 2021.