Chronicles

Police fine teen £10k for Jamie McKitten balloon release after ‘error’ over first penalty

Police have fined a County Durham teenager for a second time over a balloon release in memory of Jamie McKitten.

Tyler James, 19, initially paid a £400 fine from Durham Constabulary for breaching Covid regulations after around 200 people attended a memorial event for Jamie McKitten, from Chester-le-Street, who died in March.

The community rallied together and raised to pay the fine but on the day of Jamie’s funeral Tyler received a second fine through the post but this time for £10,000.

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.

Tyler, of Chester-le-Street, said: “I was organising a balloon release and then it got cancelled because of Covid but everyone just turned up anyway.

“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.

Tyler James, 19, initially received a £400 fine from Durham Constabulary for breaching Covid regulations after around 200 people attended a memorial event for Jamie McKitten

“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.

He added: “They are basically forcing me to go to court by fining me because I have no ways to pay 10,000

Tyler slammed the police over the fine saying they were “out to get” him.

He said: “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.”

Jamie McKitten

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.

“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.”

The death of 17-year-old Jamie rocked the community and on April 11 around 1,000 green balloons and smoke grenades on the football field in Great Lumley.

Hundreds of people lined the streets to pay their respects to Jamie on April 30, who was hit by a train in March.

To say their final goodbyes, people lined the street as Jamie’s funeral procession left his home in Great Lumley, near Chester-le-Street, before a service was held at Durham Crematorium.

Aged just four, he 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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