Durham Police retrospectively fined a woman £10,000 for breaching Covid rules when she held a memorial event for her father-in-law – within weeks of Keir Starmer’s ‘Beergate’ gathering.
In a high-stakes gamble earlier this week, the Labour leader said he would ‘do the right thing and step down’ if Durham Constabulary fined him over his lockdown beer with aides.
Durham Police has so far refused to disclose whether it will fine Mr Starmer if it finds he broke lockdown rules when he gathered with MPs and officials in Durham Miners Hall on April 30 last year.
Supporters of the Opposition leader believe the force will not issue a retrospective fine after they decided against issuing a fixed penalty notice to Dominic Cummings, then chief advisor to Boris Johnson, over his trip to Barnard Castle in the county.
But Durham Police appeared to take a stricter view of rule-breakers later in the pandemic when it handed a £10,000 fine to a woman who had organised a memorial event for her father-in-law, who had died of Covid, involving a balloon release, The Times reports.
Vicky Hutchison organised the gathering on November 11, 2020, in the same field where Ian Stephenson’s funeral had been due to take place in Horden.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pictured as he leaves his home in North London on Thursday amid accusations over ‘Beergate’
Mr Starmer was pictured at a gathering with MPs and officials in Durham Miners Hall on April 30 last year
The fine was reduced to a means tested £500 following a hearing at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on April 23 – seven days before the Labour leader was pictured with a beer.
Hutchison had told friends and family to wear face masks and remain socially distanced during the gathering.
Police did not attend the event and no disorder was reported, a court report from The Northern Echo said.
But the force launched a retrospective probe when it received a complaint, leading to detectives analysing a live-stream video of the memorial event before issuing Hutchison with the fine.
Her case inevitably raises questions over how the force is investigating the ‘Beergate’ gathering.
Mr Starmer has denied all wrongdoing and says he and colleagues returned to work after eating, but this week insisted he would ‘do the right thing and step down’ if Durham Constabulary fined him.
Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner pictured during a walkabout to help the launch the Labour Party’s local election campaign back in March
His deputy Angela Rayner has also said she would quit if fined over her role in the event.
Durham police admitted that Mr Cummings may have been in breach of lockdown restrictions when he drove to Barnard Castle after testing positive for Covid.
He drove his wife and son 260 miles to his parents’ home on March 27 at the height of the pandemic in a scandal led to an unprecedented press conference in No10’s Rose Garden..
The force decided against issuing a fine, but sources say the Labour leader may receive harsher treatment because the approach to dealing with breaches of Covid rules became tougher following the Cummings incident.
Durham police did not respond to requests for comment.