House party owners left “sickened”

Friday September 4th 2020

Police Scotland

Written by Midlothian View Editor, Phil Bowen

Police Scotland is investigating potential culpable and reckless conduct charges against organisers of a house party attended by more than 300 people in Midlothian.

Around 12.20am on Sunday, August 30, 2020, officers attended reports of a large-scale party run as a commercial event within a rented property.

More than 300 people were attending this paid-for event in clear breach of the current legislation in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The medical advice is quite clear that an event such as this clearly posed significant potential health risks to all those attending, anyone coming into contact with them and all members of the emergency services who responded.

All those present were dispersed by officers and a 29-year-old man was issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice. Further enquiries are being carried out to investigate potential culpable and reckless conduct charges and licensing breaches.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said “Those attending this organised event showed a blatant disregard for the regulations in place to help save lives and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Further investigations are being carried out with a view to what other charges may be brought, including culpable and reckless conduct.

“Anyone attempting to hold such an event, or any party in clear breach of the law, should be aware they will be met with a robust response from Police Scotland.

“I cannot stress enough the serious risk to public health an event of this size poses not only to those present and anyone they come into contact with, but also the wider community and all those from the emergency services who attended.”

The owners of Kirkhill Mansion responded via their Facebook page:

“As a family we have respected the law with regard to this years devastating virus and have taken great care not to put any customers in harms way at our venue. Our business like so many others out there has seen the tourist industry brought to its knees this year. To cut a long long story short, last weekend we finally had a booking that we trusted was just like all the others we have encountered over many years of meeting some lovely people. We’ve had weddings, anniversaries, stag and hen groups, and many a small birthday party.

“We are not a huge venue but have enough bedrooms to comfortably house a nice get together for people all under one roof. Anyway, last weekend we believed there to be a “normal” small booking. We asked for names and details for the people that would be arriving.

“The man we dealt with seemed very pleasant and we went ahead with the booking and check in. The booking was hiring Kirkhill for the entire weekend. We were then sadly as owners contacted at 1.30am Sunday morning by our old neighbours to say there was a huge rave and police were in attendance. This is the first we genuinely knew and naturally we were alarmed and concerned.

“We had people arrive on the scene as soon as we could to help the police disperse all the guests in attendance. We are seeking legal action against the organisers of this event and are devastated as a family that our trust was broken. Not only that, but we felt sickened to have to deal with the aftermath and mess left behind.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last night responded to the incident saying:

“It’s hard to put into words how utterly irresponsible this kind of behaviour is in current circumstances. It puts people at risk and threatens our progress out of lockdown. Please do not attend house parties just now.”

Councillor Stephen Curran, Chair of Midlothian Police, Fire and Rescue Board, said: “Those 300 or so people didn’t just put themselves at risk of contracting coronavirus, they put residents across Midlothian and beyond at risk.

“To call them selfish and irresponsible is an understatement. We realise it can be challenging following the guidance but if the majority of us can do it then so can they.

“We are working hard to avoid lockdowns like those happening in and around Glasgow but we need everyone to help keep Midlothian safe. So, please follow the guidance. It will save lives.”

Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health at NHS Lothian said: “We must continue to help prevent the spread of coronavirus which is why it is critical we don’t socialise in the same way we did in pre-Covid times.

“That means we must meet with no more than 8 people from a maximum of 3 households at a time indoors and no more than 15 people from a maximum of 5 households at a time outdoors. This is also why nightclubs are currently closed and larger gatherings such as house parties are not permitted.

“Physical distancing, diligent hand-hygiene, the wearing of masks and limiting the number of people we socialise with are all critical defences in our collective effort to keep us all safe.

“If any of us breaches this guidance, there is a significant risk that we make our family, friends and other close contacts unwell. We also risk helping to set back the date for the re-opening of our favourite places.

“Anyone who experience one of the symptoms of Covid; high fever, persistent cough or loss of taste or smell must self-isolate immediately and order a test through the NHS Inform website”

During last weekend, Police Scotland officers responded to reports of around 300 house parties across the country, dispersed those attending and issued six Fixed Penalty Notices.

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