The organiser of a wedding attended by 400 guests in north London is facing a £10,000 fine for a “shameful” breach of Covid-19 lockdown rules.
Police found revellers packed together at the ceremony held inside Yesoday Hatorah Girls Senior School in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill.
It is one of the largest breaches of restrictions police have discovered in the capital.
Officers had received reports of a large gathering around 9.15pm on Thursday, January 22.
Around 400 people were at the venue, which had windows covered to stop anyone seeing inside.
Many of the guests left as police arrived.
The event organiser will be reported for consideration of a £10,000 fine, while five other attendees were issued with £200 fixed penalty notices.
Under current rules in England, weddings and civil partnerships should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example if one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover.
Even then, up to six people can attend not including those working at the event.
Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, the Met’s Central East commander, said: “This was a completely unacceptable breach of the law, which is very clearly in place to save lives and protect the NHS.
“An NHS that is under considerable pressure at a time when Covid-19 has killed nearly 100,000 people.
“This is a deadly and very dangerous disease. We can all see that and we must act responsibly.
“People across the country are making sacrifices by cancelling or postponing weddings and other celebrations and there is no excuse for this type of behaviour. My officers are working tirelessly with the community and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action if that is required to keep people safe.”
The Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School car park is used as a drive-in Covid-19 test centre on Sundays for people who have a pre-booked appointment.
It runs alongside a daily walk-in test centre separate to the school at the end of street.
A security guard was posted outside the school gates on Friday morning as children went to class.
A van with a group of uniformed police officers was also parked nearby.
Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council UK, said “We unreservedly condemn the holding of a wedding in flagrant breach of the restrictions imposed by the Government which have been done to save lives and protect the NHS.
This is a most shameful desecration of all that we hold dear. At a time when we are all making such great sacrifices, it amounts to a brazen abrogation of the responsibility to protect life & such illegal behaviour is abhorred by the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community. https://t.co/pSTrVmFPu8
— Chief Rabbi Mirvis (@chiefrabbi) January 22, 2021
“It makes even less sense within a community which has suffered disproportionately during Covid.
“This is unacceptable behaviour. There is not one element of this that makes sense.”
He suggested that “this is a small minority of the ultra orthodox community and one cannot treat all people the same”.
He added: “There are a lot of people within the community who have been keeping to the restrictions.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis also condemned the wedding party and said it would be “abhorred” by the community.
He said: “This is a most shameful desecration of all that we hold dear. At a time when we are all making such great sacrifices, it amounts to a brazen abrogation of the responsibility to protect life & such illegal behaviour is abhorred by the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community.”
The mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said: “It’s a deeply disturbing incident at a time when in Hackney we have seen the largest number of deaths reported since last April.
“Unfortunately, similar events have taken place even at this venue before and we need to be really clear how unacceptable it is.”
The wedding was broken up hours after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced tougher £800 fines for anyone caught attending illegal indoor gatherings of more than 15 people. The new rules come into force next week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Large gatherings such as that pose a health risk…not just for those who attend themselves but to those who they live with or others that may come into contact with them.
“We fully back the police in taking action against people who flagrantly and selfishly ignore the rules.”
He added: “It’s important that absolutely everybody follows the rules.”
A Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School spokesman said: “We are absolutely horrified about last night’s event and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.
“We lease our hall to an external organisation which manages all lettings and, as such, we had no knowledge that the wedding was taking place.
“We have terminated the agreement with immediate effect.
“We are investigating how this shocking breach has happened and have no plans to re-lease the premises to any third party.
“We deplore the actions of anyone in any community breaking the law and risking people’s lives in this way.”