A Brighton student who was fined £10,000 for holding a Hallowe’en party which police say was attended by more than 100 people says he intends to appeal.
Andrew Murdymootoo, 21, says he and three of his housemates at Norwich Drive, Bevendean, were planning an evening of monopoly and drinking with a couple of guests that night.
But after a party on Falmer campus was broken up, groups of people started gatecrashing his house. As he and his friends tried to turn them away, police arrived and he was landed with the fine.
Andrew, who is in his second year studying biomedical science at the University of Brighton, said: “We all decided that we would only be having plus ones, and only two out of the four people who were going to be here invited anyone.
“Another of our housemates was out, and the sixth was asleep upstairs. There wasn’t going to be more than ten people in the house.
“We were only supposed to be playing monopoly and drinking for that night. We didn’t send out invitations to anyone. There wasn’t even one message stating our address. We have no idea how it got out.
“I have got a few friends on campus, where there was a party and it got shut down. And there was a party afterwards in Stanmer and quite a few people went from us onto there. People were hopping from one to the other.
The first eight to nine people, who we didn’t know, turned up at about 11.30pm. They got into the house, and I told them they had to get out, but people kept coming.
“It was all happening so quickly, and by 11.45pm, the house was packed.
“People were all saying this party’s not really like the Falmer one.
“The police said when they arrived, people were seen dispersing – people were already leaving, because as soon as the first large set of people started arriving, we were turning everyone away.
“I was the one who got fined because I went outside to deal with the situation. The police wouldn’t leave until they had someone’s name. They were surrounding the house and coming inside and so I came outside.
“I was talking to the police but they weren’t really listening to me.
“The police spoke to an inspector and at 12.45am they said under this act, you are given a £10,000 fine for holding a gathering.
“We would respect it completely if it was a reasonable fine, but we have no idea who invited anyone.”
The party on Falmer campus was broken up an hour before police were called to Norwich Drive. A rave in Stanmer Woods was later thwarted by officers who seized sound equipment.
Last week, English police forces suspended the use of the “draconian” fines, which were brought in under covid regulations for gatherings of more than 30 people.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told forces to stop issuing them on Friday, because of the unequal position of those who elect to pay the fine versus those who go to court and whose fine would be subject to means testing.
The suspension was lifted yesterday afternoon after discussions with the government – but police have been told to inform people they can fight the fine in court.
Andrew was sent a letter confirming the fine on November 3, and given 28 days to pay. He has talked to the Citizens Advice Bureau, and is now looking for a solicitor to represent him at magistrates court.
However, he seems fairly sanguine about his prospects. He said: “We have to see what the situation is. So far, the aim is just to get the fine down as much as possible. Of the four of us who would split the fine, I’m pretty sure only one of us is working and would be able to pay anything, even just £100.
“We are all having to pay n extra £150 in rent as one of our original housemates dropped out because of coronavirus.
Whatever happens, happens. I don’t know what sort of reply we will get from the court, but I’m hoping for a positive one.”
Any solicitors who are interested in taking on Andrew’s case are welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass on their details.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.