Firms that defy coronavirus bans will face fines up to £100,000, says minister

Businesses and event organisers who defy Stormont coronavirus bans and closure orders will face fines up to £100,000, the justice minister has warned.

Naomi Long said the financial penalties are among new powers set to be made available to the Stormont Executive through emergency laws being passed at Westminster.

Addressing the Assembly on the crisis, Mrs Long also said any prisoners who might potentially be released early to alleviate pressure on the prisons system during the emergency would first be assessed to ensure they do not pose a risk to the public or themselves.

Mrs Long joined Assembly members from across the chamber condemning those who continue to ignore social distancing advice.

“It is not good enough for people to sit down and wait until they are forced to behave appropriately,” she said.

“We all have it in our gift to implement social distancing now, we all have it in our gift to maintain our social isolation if we are in vulnerable groups now, to work from home now.

“We do not need an emergency Bill for common sense.

“And so we have got to appeal to people that whilst £100,000 is a lot of money, it will not compensate for the loss of a grandparent and for the loss of a brother or sister or the loss of a child.

“And so people need to take responsibility for their actions, because their decisions today will dictate what happens in two and three and four weeks’ time.

“And I don’t believe that anyone wants to be standing lonely around a graveside because they went to an event that was completely unnecessary today.”

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd said those who were ignoring the advice were “literally killing people”.

“These people who are not respecting the advice they have been given are quite literally killing people and they need to understand that,” he said.

“They are spreading this disease, while they may be feeling healthy, they are literally killing people and they need to take that on board.”