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Teen given accidental £10k Covid fine on day of mate’s funeral for balloon release

A teenager has been given an accidental £10,000 Covid fine on the day of his friend’s funeral for organising a balloon release.

Tyler James, 19, was initially fined £400 after 200 people gathered to attend a memorial event for his pal Jamie McKitten, from Chester-le-Street, who died in March after being hit by a train.

The community rallied together to raise the money and pay off the fine, but on the day of his friend’s funeral, Tyler received a £10,000 fine through the post.

Durham Constabulary said that because of an administrative error by the national police unit – which manages fixed penalty notices on behalf of police forces – the incorrect penalty details were initially sent to the event organiser, Chronicle Live reports.

Jamie McKitten
Jamie died at the age of 17 after being hit by a train

Tyler said he was organising a balloon release but it got cancelled due to coronavirus

restrictions.

This, however, did not stop people from turning up and gathering to pay their respects to Jamie.

Tyler said: “I got a fine of £800 but would be £400 if it was paid within a certain time.

“I put up a post asking everyone who was there to put in a little bit to pay it and got all the amount.

“On the day of Jamie’s funeral I got a letter saying I was being fined £10,000 even though I had paid the other fine.”

Tyler James was fined twice over a balloon release
Tyler James was fined twice over a balloon release

He said he had no way to pay the fine and criticised the police for sending it, claiming officers were “out to get” him.

He added: “I think it is all because they didn’t like the fact the community got together to pay the fine and that’s why they sent a second fine.”

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Officers issued the organiser of this event with a £10,000 fixed penalty notice (FPN) in line with Government guidelines after it went ahead, despite our advice that it would breach Covid restrictions.

Mourners gather as Jamie McKitten's funeral procession passes through Great Lumley in County Durham
Mourners gather as Jamie McKitten’s funeral procession passes through Great Lumley in County Durham

The teenager died in March
The teenager died in March

“Unfortunately, due to an administrative error by the national police unit which manages FPNs on behalf of police forces, the incorrect penalty details were initially sent to the event organiser.

“Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to help the public follow the restrictions by engaging, explaining, and encouraging, and only turning to enforcement as a last resort.”

Jamie died at the age of 17 and his death moved the local community.

Flowers were left in Jamie's memory
Flowers were left in Jamie’s memory

On April 11, around 1,000 green balloons and smoke grenades were released on the football field in Great Lumley.

On April 30, hundreds of people gathered in the street to pay tribute to the teenager.

People also lined the streets on the day of Jamie’s funeral before a service was held at Durham Crematorium.

When he was four years old, Jamie witnessed his mum Kelly’s brutal murder at the hands of his dad, Stuart Cummings, who was jailed for life in 2008.

A family friend, local Labour councillor Linda Marshall, told ChronicleLive that Jamie “just couldn’t get over what he witnessed” on that fateful day in 2008.

Floral tributes and messages of support have since been left at the station.



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