A houseboat owner has been warned he faces “substantial” fines for breaching Covid-19 regulations after police broke up illegal parties on his vessel, including one believed to have been attended by more than 70 people.
Jordy Nicholas Van Duijvenbode, 31, pleaded guilty to holding a gathering of more than 30 people and a second charge of participating in a gathering of two or more people in an indoor space.
Police were alerted by members of the public to reports on February 5 and February 13 that large music gatherings were taking place on his canal boat while London was under lockdown restrictions, east London’s Stratford Magistrates’ Court heard.
Van Duijvenbode was paid between £300 and £700 for the use of his boat called the Nebuchadrezzar, which other houseboat users described as looking like it was homemade.
District judge Susan Holdam heard the matter could have been ended with an £800 penalty notice if Van Duijvenbode had allowed it to be dealt with in February but he now faces a much harsher financial hit as the matter has gone through the courts.
Prosecutor Varinder Hayre said Van Duijvenbode, who is a director of a company that is linked to pubs and the hospitality industry, claimed he had been going through a “bad patch” as he was struggling to find work during the pandemic.
Despite being warned by the police not to hold a party Van Duijvenbode, who represented himself at the hearing, told the court: “In hindsight I shouldn’t have done it. I had applied for other government grants but did not qualify for any of them – in terms of the boat succeeding or not , it was my only choice. It was all or nothing.”
He admitted he was aware of lockdown restrictions and said there were about 15 people on board at that time, the court heard.
Then in the early hours of February 13, more than 30 partygoers fled from police who had ordered the boat to stop by jumping over a fence and 26 people were issued with penalty notices when the boat eventually moored.
The prosecutor said: “It was believed at the time by the police officers that there were more than 70 people on the boat which was travelling from between Tottenham and the Lea Valley.”
Neighbouring houseboat residents described hearing “loud music and voices” and “it was indicated that the boat had quite a lean, which means it was carrying a lot of weight,” the prosecutor said.
Officers later seized a music system, loud speakers and lights from the boat.
During his police interview, Van Duijvenbode had said about 30 to 40 people were on board and he had nothing to do with arranging the event which partygoers had to pay to enter.
He said he had no idea how many people would be turning up and that his job on the day was to drive the boat.
The prosecutor said Van Duijvenbode now understands what he was doing was wrong but he was desperate for money as he had been without a job since the lockdown.
The boat has since been seized by the Canal and River Trust.
Van Duijvenbode, who told the court that the boat has been destroyed, added: “I guess I do not have much to say. My boat has been destroyed. My life has been destroyed.”
He said he used to earn about £3,000 to £4,000 a month but has now been living in his Ford transit van for about three months, parking at various place across London.
He told the court that he is on Universal Credit, is set to apply for bankruptcy and he also helps financially with his seven-year-old son who lives with his mother in west London.
Van Duijvenbode was bailed to next appear on June 4 for sentencing at the same court.
The judge told him: “I have listened to what you have said about your circumstances. The fines you are facing are going to be substantial ones.”
The judge ordered him to produce a financial statement which should include the type of benefits he claims plus the amounts, the value of the Nebuchadrezzar and any other vehicles he owns.
She also requested financial details dating from 13 February 2020, when his company was set up.
This must include profits and losses, what he is paid as a director along with any other income from other sources, including the cost of hiring the boat to the current date and any other outgoings that he has.