Federal justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) has called for tougher fines for anyone organising a lockdown party after a number of incidents.
Van Quickenborne was reacting to reports of a third incident at the student residences of the College of Europe in Bruges in a week’s time.
Last weekend police broke up two parties– the colleges houses its mainly foreign students in four residences in the city – with the participants being fined €250 each. They were also confined to their private rooms when the College closed the communal areas.
Then on Saturday another party took place in a third location, apparently involving another set of students. Reports said either seven or 12 people were involved.
“At least seven people were involved, but some even speak of 12 people present,” said Dirk De fauw (CD&V), mayor of Bruges.
“It is possible that a few were able to escape. In any case, these are students with bad intentions. That is why we keep an extra eye on all those residences. The students don’t make it easy for us either: last weekend the windows were even taped to hide such a party. All offenders who were still present can expect a fine in any case.”
But Bruges students are not the only culprits. At one party in Jette in the past week, organisers had organised a proper bar and a shuttle service to bring party-goers from a meeting point to the party itself.
In Mechelen, police broke up two parties on Saturday. The first took place in a garage and involved 15 people aged between 19 and 30 years. The second involved seven people.
The fines imposed for organising an illegal party amount to €750, and €250 for those attending. Van Quickenborne finds those sums too low to be an effective deterrent, and is calling for fines into the thousands for organisers, and increased fines too for those taking part.
“This is criminal and anti-social behaviour,” said Van Quickenborne. “I think the fines are far too low. At the moment people just buy off a party. The definition will also be clarified: if there is music and there is alcohol, for example. If someone deliberately organises something with the intention of breaking the law, the fines will be very heavy.”
Today, the minister will attend a hastily-arranged meeting with the college of prosecutors-general of the country, the senior judicial body, to discuss the question.
The meeting will also consider the question of the powers under the Covid-19 regulations of the different levels of government.
“It is time to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and make it clear to certain mayors and provincial governors: this far and no further,” the minister told the VRT.