Covid-19: MP claims 'outrage' at dropped charge for 150-guest funeral

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Funeral procession for Joe RooneyImage source, Travellers News UK
Image caption,
The funeral included a procession in Kettering, with officers deployed and road blocks put in place, Northamptonshire Police said

An MP has highlighted "widespread outrage" over the failure to prosecute anyone over a funeral allegedly attended by up to 150 mourners.

The event took place at a church in Kettering, Northamptonshire, during the second lockdown in November.

A man was charged with a breach of Covid rules, but the case was this week dropped due to lack of evidence.

Speaking in Parliament, Kettering MP Philip Hollobone called it "a clear and flagrant breach" of regulations.

The funeral for 47-year-old Joe Rooney, who had died in a crash, was held at a Catholic church in the town centre on 9 November.

It was described by Northamptonshire Police at the time as showing a "blatant disregard" for the 30-person limit, with officers sent to the funeral procession and road blocks put in place.

Police said they would issue a £10,000 fine, with Chief Constable Nick Adderley commenting that he sympathised but "no-one is above the law".

The man charged appeared at Northampton Magistrates' Court on Monday.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it received the case file that morning and "after careful review" could not prosecute for any offence due to a lack of evidence from police.

Image source, BBC Parliament
Image caption,
Philip Hollobone said families who adhered to Covid rules for funerals had "encountered much distress"

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Hollobone said he had contacted the solicitor general about the incident.

"There is widespread dismay and outrage across the Kettering constituency that the organiser of a huge Irish traveller funeral held right in the middle of Kettering during the Covid lockdown in November, attended by 150 people in clear and flagrant breach of the pandemic regulations, has not been prosecuted," he said.

"Hundreds of local families who have lost loved ones over the last year have respected the rules and encountered much distress in limiting the number of mourners at funerals."

He then asked: "Can we have a government statement on the fact that once again, it appears there is one rule for gypsies and travellers, and another for everyone else?"

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would forward the comments to the attorney general.

The Crown Prosecution Service said: "There was not enough evidence that the individual charged by the police had been responsible, so the case against him was stopped."

Image source, Travellers News UK
Image caption,
Northamptonshire Police said it regretted not being able to provide adequate evidence

A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman said: "We completely respect the CPS's decision and regret that we were unable to provide the evidence required for this case to proceed.

"So many people have made painful sacrifices throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including limiting the number of people at loved ones' funerals, therefore it is of deep disappointment to us that on this occasion, we have failed to bring anyone to justice in connection with this breach."

Abbie Kirkby, of charity Friends, Families and Travellers, said the notion that the law favoured gypsies and travellers was "frankly bizarre".

"Gypsy and traveller people experience stark inequalities that have been further compounded by the pandemic, despite Mr Hollobone's remark," she added.

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