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Funeral for ‘Gypsy Joe’ leads to £10,000 police fine after 150 travellers march

The organisers of a gypsy funeral have been issued a £10,000 fine after a procession of 150 travellers marched through a town.

Northamptonshire Police said the family of Joe Rooney – known as 'Gypsy Joe’ – will be hit with the cost for their "total disrespect" of coronavirus restrictions.

It follows previous criticism of the force for not being robust enough in enforcing the guidelines, which restricts funerals to 30 people.

Officers in riot gear were deployed after mourners turned out on Monday morning for the funeral.

The 47-year-old Irish traveller was killed in a car crash when his Audi A8 ploughed into a tree on October 25.

Horse drawn carriages with Irish flags led the group of travellers on their journey to St Edward's Roman Catholic Church in Kettering, Northants.

They were followed by a cortege of seven Rolls Royces.

Photos showed crowds appearing to ignore social distancing guidelines as they followed the coffin, sparking dozens of complaints from residents.

The procession was given a police escort and officers put in road blocks to help as the mourners brought the town centre to a standstill.

Announcing the fine on Tuesday, Chief Constable Nick Adderley said people “have had to bury their loved-ones in really difficult and harrowing circumstances” during the pandemic.

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He said: “There have been limited numbers allowed, people who have been unable to attend and say goodbye, social distancing enforced throughout the service, and the opportunity to have a proper wake to celebrate that person’s life not allowed.

“These sacrifices have been incredibly hard for people to make but they have made them in the interests of protecting each other and their communities from a deadly virus that has killed more than one million people worldwide.

“It is then exceptionally frustrating when we see a group of people with no regard for other people’s safety, completely flouting the restrictions and having the type of funeral many people would have loved to have had but have been unable to hold, simply because they think they are above the law.”

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He added: “While I of course sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one, it cannot be one rule for some people and another rule for others, and no one is above the law.

“This is why Northamptonshire Police is seeking to issue its first £10,000 fine to the organisers of this funeral for their total disrespect of the restrictions put in place to keep us all safe.

“This may seem like a harsh course of action to some but I do not apologise whatsoever when I have seen so many painful sacrifices made throughout this pandemic by law-abiding citizens I have a duty towards."

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He insisted he was “content” police dealt with the matter appropriately after 60 officers were ready to storm the wake in full riot gear.

The police chief said officers turned people away from the wake, where “there were hundreds of people trying to get onto a field and enjoy that celebration of life”.

He said they met the organisers beforehand who said they were going to abide by the rules, but were “taken by surprise” by the number which showed up.

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