Couple fined £1,000 over Indian dinner for four in Durham weeks before Keir Starmer’s curry call for equivalence in Labour leader’s case

  • Chris Brown, 32, and wife Gemma, 37, had dinner at a friend’s house last year
  • Two police officers said they had been told 18 people were partying inside
  • Both couples at the dinner party were fined £200 for breaking Covid regulations
  • ‘It’s different for people in power as they get away with it,’ they said

 A couple fined £1,000 for having dinner with two friends in lockdown yesterday hit out at police for treating Keir Starmer more leniently than ‘normal people like us’.

They were penalised for an incident a few weeks before, and a few miles from, the infamous ‘Beergate’ curry in Durham.

Officers ignored their explanation for socialising with far fewer people than the Labour leader.

Chris Brown, 32, and wife Gemma, 37, went to another couple’s house for a steak dinner and few drinks in March last year. 

But during the evening two police officers knocked on the door saying they had been told 18 people were partying inside.

Mrs Brown said they invited the officers in to show them only four people were present and explained that their hosts were a support bubble for her husband because of his mental health problems. 

He was being treated for depression following the death of a close friend.

All four later received letters informing them they had been fined £200 for breaching Covid regulations.

Anger: Chris and Gemma Brown 

Mrs Brown, a beauty therapist and mother of two, initially contested the fine believing they had not broken the law last March 6. 

She eventually paid £560 in February after bailiffs came to her house. 

Her husband pleaded not guilty to breaking Covid laws when the case came before Newton Aycliffe magistrates last Friday. 

However the window and door installer changed his plea to guilty when he found he could end up paying out more than £1,000 if he lost.

He was fined £200 and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £34 surcharge.

Commenting on a comparison with the Labour leader’s case, Mrs Brown said: ‘It’s different for people in power as they get away with it. 

The police wouldn’t deal with them in the same way as us normal people.

‘It has cost us £1,000 to have dinner with two friends. 

None of the restrictions made any sense either. 

You can go to work with a group of people but can’t have a drink with two friends.

‘We didn’t believe we had committed a crime and didn’t think we had done anything wrong. 

We were bubbled up because of Chris’s mental health. 

He was suffering a lot, not being able to see people apart from me. He was very down.’

She said the two officers did not take their arguments seriously.

The couple live in the village of Burnhope, near Durham, and visited their friends three miles away in Stanley at a time when restrictions banned indoor socialising.

Mrs Brown said Sir Keir should still receive a fine and criticised the Prime Minister for breaking Covid rules with his Downing Street staff: ‘They put the restrictions in place and they should practice what they preach.’

There have been claims that because of the Dominic Cummings Barnard Castle case Sir Keir is unlikely to be issued with a fixed penalty notice even if he is found to have broken the rules from the gathering at the miners hall in Durham on April 30 last year.

In May 2020 police said that Boris Johnson’s former chief aide might have breached restrictions but it would not take retrospective action as this would amount to treating him differently to other members of the public.

When Durham police made that decision in respect of Mr Cummings, the local MP was quick to write to Mr Johnson to say that the public demanded the adviser be sacked. The MP was Mary Foy who was pictured with Sir Keir in the Beergate video.

Durham Constabulary refused to comment yesterday.

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