Blatant Kettering funeral Covid breach raised with Government

Kettering's MP brought up the 'outrage' in the House of Commons

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 12:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 12:34 pm
The procession in Bowling Green Road.

A huge Kettering Traveller funeral which blatantly breached Covid laws but went without punishment has been raised in Parliament.

About 150 mourners gathered outside St Edward's Church off London Road to celebrate the life of Joe Rooney on November 9, despite emergency powers restricting funerals to 30 people and gatherings in a public place to two.

Mr Rooney's brother, 48-year-old Patrick Rooney, was later charged with breaching coronavirus regulations before the case was dramatically dropped at the last minute by the CPS, who had only received the case file on the morning of the April 19 court hearing.

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Mourners outside the church.

Police later said they felt 'deep disappointment' that they had failed to bring anyone to justice. Nobody was given a fixed penalty notice and it seems highly unlikely anybody else will be prosecuted.

Now Kettering's MP, Conservative Philip Hollobone, has raised the lack of punishment in the House of Commons and revealed he has contacted Solicitor General Lucy Frazer MP about it.

He said there was 'widespread outrage and dismay' across the constituency.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "Hundreds of local families who have lost loved ones over the last year have respected the rules and encountered much distress in limiting the number of mourners at funerals."

Philip Hollobone.

He then asked: "Can we have a Government statement on the fact that once again, it appears that there is one rule for Gypsies and Travellers and another for everyone else?"

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he was concerned by what Mr Hollobone was saying and said he would pass his comments to the Attorney General.

Both Mr Hollobone and national charity The Traveller Movement have been contacted for further comment on the MP's remarks.

On the day of the funeral horses and carriages with Irish flags led mourners through the town on their way to the crematorium to pay their respects to Mr Rooney, known as 'Gypsy Joe', who had died aged 47 in a crash between Stanion and Geddington the previous month.

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 then 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.

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."

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."