Whether you are ringing in the New Year with twelve or 60 people at your private home, there is very little police officers can do as no laws are being broken.
This is according to attorney Farai Masaisai who told Guardian Media the existing Public Health Ordinance only allows an officer to enforce gatherings within public spaces.
“The ordinance is, as its name says, to protect the public and is really for public spaces so unless you are charging persons to enter your private home then it will not become a public space”, the attorney told Guardian Media during a telephone interview yesterday.
Masaisai recalled the Bayside pool party in September which he noted occurred in a public space on a private development, yet nothing became of it. This was one of the events which sparked public debate regarding the police’s jurisdiction in private spaces.
“For example, these zessers and wessers events are broadcasted on these different social media platforms and they then, therefore, bring that residence into a public space because they charge persons to enter,” Masaisai explained.
“I have known persons who have been having weddings with over 100 people during COVID in their private confines, I mean they were big enough but, in my view, it is a crowd and they have not been arrested or brought before any court”.
Unless the officers present a search warrant, attorney Masaisai said they cannot enter a person’s private property without “reasonable cause”.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has warned that his officers will be out in full force this week to clamp down on any Old Year’s night party.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh recently said the ministry is aware of several Old Year’s night parties across both islands including two planned for Down-the-Islands.
The attorney also believes police may be looking to enforce other existing laws such as the use of fireworks.
“So, if it is you are having your private event and you do not have a license to set off those fireworks, the police could come to confiscate it and in doing so they may make arrests”, Masaisai said.
The attorney stated that while the law may protect families wishing to hold festivities tonight, it does not protect them from contracting COVID-19.