Teen fined for balloon release in memory of Jamie McKitten

A TEENAGER who paid £400 after breaching Covid restrictions, and was then told to hand over £10,000 after police admitted there was ‘an error’, has settled the matter in court…by paying £400.

Tyler James was issued with the charge after organising a balloon release in memory of his friend Jamie McKitten, from Great Lumley, near Chester-le-Street.

The 17-year-old took his own life on the railway and his death last March led to an outpouring of grief in the community.

Tyler James 

James, 19, from Chester-le-Street organised the event in Great Lumley and around 200 people released balloons and set off flares in memory of the youngster.

It was on April 11, the day before lockdown restrictions were eased, although the rule of six nevertheless applied outside.

The balloon release on April 11 last year

The event was attended by around 200 people 

Police issued a £400 charge, which was paid following a whip round to by people who attended so James was not out of pocket.

But then Durham Constabulary said there had been ‘an error’ and the actual fine should have been £10,000.

The £400 paid was refunded and at the time James described it as ‘a joke’ so he took the matter to court.

On Friday, he appeared before Peterlee Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded guilty to taking part in a gathering of more than six people.

He was fined £364, and ordered to pay a surcharge to fund victim sets of £36.

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After the hearing James, who has recently become a father and is a groundworker, said: “They made that many mistakes they could not fine me the £10,000.

“They were saying I was a participant and not the leader of it. 

“They kept messing up themselves so they could not do it in the end.

“It has all been a complete waste of time and money. They have had three court situations. That can’t be cheap.

“All of this for nothing.” 

Jamie McKitten 

An inquest heard Jamie McKitten suffered mental health problems and had never recovered from seeing his mother, Kelly, murdered by his father in their home at Pelton Fell.

He was popular in his community and over 500 people lined the streets in his home village for his funeral.

James has now shared details of another balloon release, organised by someone else, to mark what would have been Jamie’s 18th birthday.

Friends are meeting at Riverside park in Chester-le-Street on Saturday at 3pm.

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