Kettering Traveller funeral: 'deep disappointment' as nobody brought to justice
The CPS concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute a Covid breach suspect
Police say they are deeply disappointed after an investigation into a huge Kettering funeral which blatantly breached Covid rules ended without anyone being brought to justice.
About 150 mourners gathered to pay their respects to Corby Traveller Joe Rooney, known as 'Gypsy Joe', on November 9 last year despite restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus in the second national lockdown.
Mr Rooney's brother, 48-year-old Patrick James Rooney, was later charged with participating in a gathering of two or more people in a public place and Northampton Magistrates' Court had heard he intended to plead not guilty.
But yesterday (Monday) the case against him was dramatically dropped at the last minute by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
They did not receive the evidence from police until the morning of the hearing and decided there was 'insufficient evidence' to proceed after what prosecutor Stella Moses described as a "careful review" of the case.
A CPS spokesman said: “Evidence in this case was received by the CPS on the morning of the first hearing.
"It was concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the individual charged by the police had been responsible for the excess numbers attending, so the case was stopped.”
Mourners had turned out outside Kettering's St Edward's Church, off London Road, to celebrate the life of 'Gypsy Joe', 47, who died in a crash between Stanion and Geddington the previous month.
Horses and carriages with Irish flags led mourners through the town on their way to the crematorium to pay their respects, watched by officers.
It's understood no fixed penalty notices were given by police to anybody who attended the funeral. It is now highly unlikely that anybody else will face criminal action.
Speaking after yesterday's hearing, a Northamptonshire Police spokesman told this newspaper: “We completely respect the CPS’s decision and regret that we were unable to provide the evidence required for this case to proceed.
"So many people have made painful sacrifices throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including limiting the number of people at loved ones' funerals, therefore it is of deep disappointment to us that on this occasion we have failed to bring anyone to justice in connection with this breach."
In the days after the funeral Northamptonshire Police initially said they would be looking to issue their first £10,000 fine to the organiser.
They later revealed hundreds had later joined a wake in a field with a marquee as police installed roadblocks to close it off.
About 60 officers were prepared in riot gear to break the party up, police said at the time.
Magistrates told Rooney, of Greenacres in Market Harborough, there would be no further action in the case and thanked him for attending the hearing.
Rooney had funded his own defence of the case privately and his costs will now be reimbursed through central funds.