United Kingdom

Prosecutors drop criminal charges against man accused of breaching Covid rules for Gypsy funeral

A man accused of breaching coronavirus laws over a huge gypsy funeral for his brother will face no further criminal action after the charges were dropped.

Patrick James Rooney, 48, was charged with breaking Covid regulations following the funeral of traveller Joe Rooney, known as 'Gypsy Joe', on November 9 last year.

Police said they handed a £10,000 fine to the organisers of the event, which saw 150 travellers marching through Kettering, Northants.

The police slammed the organisers for their 'total lack of respect' for coronavirus rules which limits funerals to only 30 mourners

The mourners were seen flouting social distancing which requires people to stand 6ft (2m) away from each other

The 47-year-old, known across Corby as 'Gypsy Joe', died in a crash between Stanion and Geddington last month

Photographs taken at the time show crowds ignoring social distancing guidelines as the procession brought the town centre to a standstill.

Officers in riot gear were also deployed at the time of the gathering, which came days after England's second lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.

But on Monday afternoon at Northampton Magistrates' Court, the case against Rooney was suddenly dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Prosecutor Stella Moses said the CPS had taken the decision after a 'careful review of the case'.

Rooney was charged with participating in a gathering of two or more people in a public place last month before the case against him was withdrawn.

Magistrates told him there would be no further action in the case and thanked him for attending the hearing.

The court heard Rooney, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, had funded his own defence of the case privately and his costs will now be reimbursed through central funds.

On the morning of the funeral, around 150 mourners turned out outside St Edward's Catholic Church to celebrate the life of Mr Rooney.

The 47-year-old was killed in a car crash when his Audi A8 ploughed into a tree near Geddington, Northamptonshire., on October 25.

Horse-drawn carriages with Irish flags led the group on their journey to the church followed by a cortege of seven Rolls Royces.

The procession was even giving a police escort along the route and officers put in roadblocks to help the travellers as they descended on the town.

Under guidelines at the time, individuals were only allowed to meet with one other person outdoors in a public place and funeral numbers were restricted to 30.

Northamptonshire Police said they had issued their first £10,000 fine to the funeral's organiser for their 'total disrespect' of Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking previously, Chief Constable Nick Adderley, said: 'It is exceptionally frustrating when we see a group of people with no regard for other people's safety, completely flouting the restrictions and having the type of funeral many people would have loved to have had but have been unable to hold, simply because they think they are above the law.

'While I of course sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one, it cannot be one rule for some people and another rule for others, and no one is above the law.

'This is why Northamptonshire Police is seeking to issue its first £10,000 fine to the organisers of this funeral for their total disrespect of the restrictions put in place to keep us all safe.

'This may seem like a harsh course of action to some but I do not apologise whatsoever when I have seen so many painful sacrifices made throughout this pandemic by law-abiding citizens I have a duty towards.'

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