Hackney’s police commander has insisted he will not apologise for enforcing the law against a minority, as he praised the majority of the strictly-Orthodox community in Stamford Hill for following lockdown rules.
Chief superintendent Marcus Barnett, the top cop in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, said he would make no apology on cracking down on weddings held in defiance of lockdown, attracting huge crowds.
A Jewish News investigation last month revealed evidence that weddings were still be being repeatedly held, including one with more than 300 guests.
The Hackney police commander said: “The overwhelming majority of our Jewish residents” had stuck to the coronavirus rules, but that a “small minority” had seriously flouted them in recent months.
“In recent weeks and months, I have been made aware by worried members of the community that there are a small minority breaking the rules in serious ways, such as holding events like ceremonial weddings attended by very large groups of people,” he said.
“We are all eager to get back to normality however, at this current time, these events are not only unlawful but they are highly likely to spread the virus which continues to claim lives.”
While most in Hackney and Stamford Hill’s Jewish communities have responded “admirably” throughout the crisis, Barnett said: “However, where there are wilful and dangerous breaches, I will make no apology for enforcing those regulations.”
He added: “I understand that like the wider public, the Jewish community want action against those that breach the legislation.
“That is why we are clear on our police response and respond as swiftly and professionally to reported breaches.”
Officers are continuing to talk with community leaders to encourage compliance and safety, he said.
The plea comes after 20 of Stamford Hill’s most senior strictly-Orthodox rabbis signed an open letter earlier this month calling on community members to “avoid unlawful gatherings and events.”
Binyomin Stern, president of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, said the call “makes clear everyone’s responsibility to adhere to the current lockdown in order to save lives.”
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