Police defend call to not stop large 'Covid breach' wakes for cop chase dads

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has defended his officers’ decisions to stand back and allow large wakes to take place for two dads who died following a police pursuit. He spoke out following large gatherings of family and friends mourned the deaths of Paddy Connors, 36, and Tommy Sharp, 29. They appeared to be breaches of coronavirus rules, which allow a maximum 30 people to attend a funeral.

Both lost their lives when a car they were in crashed into two other cars on Frederick Road, Salford, following the short police pursuit. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating.

A marquee was erected for Mr Sharp’s wake

Up to 50 people gathered in Lowton near Golborne from Thursday afternoon to mark the death of Mr Connors. Mourners, some of whom could be seen drinking, blocked Derby Road while three pubs in the area closed ‘on the advice of the police’.

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The Irish tricolour was seen waving while there were also floral tributes and huge gold-coloured ornament mounted on a truck.

Eye-witnesses said a group of 40 to 50 people were at the event, including some children.

Police defend call to not stop large 'Covid breach' wakes for cop chase dadsPaddy Connors, left, and Tommy Sharp

One resident called it ‘absolute madness’ while others questioned why the police did not intervene. A few days earlier, about a hundred mourners attended a lavish wake for Mr Sharp. It was held in a huge marquee erected on rough ground in Miles Platting, with mourners seen revving a variety of supercars up and down Oldham Road last Monday night.

Among the cars was a Lamborghini and a soft-top Rolls Royce, which had a picture of Tommy on the door as well as the words ‘no 1 Tommy Sharp’.

Police defend call to not stop large 'Covid breach' wakes for cop chase dadsThe wake held on Derby Road in Lowton for Paddy Connors

Mourners could be seen drinking and a fire was lit outside the marquee, which was erected on a parcel of rough ground beside Bulldog Metals Ltd. A police Tactical Aid Unit van was stationed nearby during the early evening but moved away later. Funerals for the pair took place the day after the wakes, as is customary in traveller communities.

A part of Wigan was brought to a halt for the funeral procession of ‘Big Paddy’ Connors.

Police defend call to not stop large 'Covid breach' wakes for cop chase dadsPaddy Connors’ funeral procession was led by a horse-drawn carriage

A plane took to the air to paint the sky the colours of the Irish flag. Dive-bombing and whistling, it signalled the start of a mammoth procession.

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Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, asked why officers didn’t step in to tackle what appeared to be breaches of coronavirus legislation, told the M.E.N: “Throughout this we’ve had some really difficult policing situations. We have policed protests which are really tricky situations and my colleagues on the ground have to make some really difficult operational decisions.

“They are having to balance risks, the risk of trying to break them up and the inevitable violence that will lead to and does that risk outweigh standing back and then following-up afterwards.”

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Police defend call to not stop large 'Covid breach' wakes for cop chase dads

Get the latest updates from across Greater Manchester direct to your inbox with the free MEN newsletter You can sign up very simply by following the instructions here The top cop cited the funeral of Clive ‘Mr Ibiza’ Pinnock in April, at the height of the original lockdown, which was attended by hundreds of people.

Mr Pinnock, 38, died after a collision between a green Kawasaki motorbike he was riding and a BMW on Hyde Road on Wednesday April 8. At the time of the funeral, police said they opted not to intervene as emotions ‘were high’.

Police defend call to not stop large 'Covid breach' wakes for cop chase dadsClive Pinnock, 38, died when his motorbike collided with a BMW in Gorton

Mr Hopkins said: “Officers are making really tricky, finely-balanced operational decisions and it comes down to a balance of those risks. Do you risk issuing fixed penalty notices and the very real risk of serious disorder and my officers being injured?

In those situations it makes sense to monitor what’s going on and to deal with the situation in slow-time afterwards.”

Officers had conducted ‘follow-up work’ for the funeral of Mr Pinnock and would be doing the same for the wakes of Mr Connors and Mr Sharp, he said.

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