Fines of £800 will be slapped on people caught at house parties as part of tougher measures to crack down on illegal gatherings during the pandemic.
The penalty, coming into force next week, will apply for groups of over 15 people and will double after each offence up to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders, the Home Secretary said.
The fines currently stand at £200. The £10,000 penalties for unlawful groups of more than 30 people will still only apply to the organiser.
Announcing the decision at Thursday’s Downing Street press conference, Priti Patel said: “The science is clear: such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to public health.
“Not only to those in attendance but to our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down.
“As this latest measure demonstrates, we will not stand by while a small number of individuals put others at risk.”
The Metropolitan Police issued more than 140 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) totalling £39,000 in just two days last weekend. These included a house party of more than 40 people in Tower Hamlets and a large party at a place of worship in Hackney.
Last week South Yorkshire Police handed out 127 FPNs, of which 92 were for indoor gatherings, and at the weekend, 15 people were fined at a house party at a holiday rental in Sheffield.
In Greater Manchester, police responded to three separate parties over the weekend, the largest one involving more than 40 people at a flat in Cheetham Hill.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said: “We have made it repeatedly clear that house parties and other large gatherings should not be happening. They are dangerous, irresponsible, and totally unacceptable.
“I hope that the likelihood of an increased fine acts as a disincentive for those people who are thinking of attending or organising such events.”
He said officers will not “waste time” trying to reason with people breaking the rules in such a way, adding: “When we see people that are putting themselves and others in danger, we will not waste time trying to reason with them.
“They are demonstrating no regard for the safety of others, or even for themselves.”