Teen fined £10,000 for organising balloon release for friend killed by train

A teenager has been fined £10,000 after organising a balloon release in memory of his dead friend.

Tyler James, 19, initially received a £400 fine from police after around 200 people attended the memorial event for Jamie McKitten.

Jamie, 17, died after being hit by a train at Chester-le-Street railway station on March 31.

The teenager was just four when he witnessed his dad, Stuart Cummings, murder his mum, Kelly McKitten, in February 2008.

His death rocked the community and on April 11, around 1,000 green balloons were released on the football field in Great Lumley, County Durham.

Locals rallied together to pay Tyler’s initial fine, but on the day of Jamie’s funeral, he received a second £10,000 fine through the post.

Durham Constabulary blamed the mix-up on an administrative error after the incorrect penalty details were sent to Tyler.

Tyler 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.

‘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 claimed the police were ‘out to get’ him, adding: ‘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.

‘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.’

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