Wiltshire Police says it was ‘too dangerous’ to attempt to disperse an illegal gathering of approximately 200 mourners in Royal Wootton Bassett High Street this afternoon.
Officers were made aware of the large group of people congregating outside St Bartholomew Church at 1pm for a funeral, but despite the gathering breaching the government’s coronavirus regulations, the force didn’t have the resources available to intervene safely.
The decision was taken by officers to monitor the situation, engaging with those within the group.
The vicar of Royal Wootton Bassett, Reverend Jane Curtis told Wiltshire 999s that the funeral service within the church and the churchyard “fully abided by the Church of England rules and government’s coronavirus regulations”.
During the service, dozens of vehicles were parked on double-yellow lines, the pavement and grass verge in the area severely affecting the flow of traffic. There were significant traffic delays.
“Officers attended as there were concerns about both the lack of adherence to the Government’s Covid19 restrictions and parking and traffic issues in the town”, a police spokesperson said.
Adding: “However, due to the fact that we had no prior warning about the funeral and the large numbers of people in attendance, officers did not have the operational ability to disperse the large group in a safe way.
“The policing role in this situation was to monitor, engage with the individuals and ensure, as best we can, the safety of those in attendance.
“Therefore officers monitored the situation until the funeral ended at 2pm.
“We will continue working closely with the local authority and relevant venues to make sure everything is being done to ensure all funerals are held in a way which follows the Government’s current restrictions.”
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