Partygoers who gathered to celebrate a wedding anniversary have been collectively fined nearly £15,000.

Police were called to reports of a gathering in Devereux Drive, Watford, at around 8.30pm last night (Sunday).

Officers discovered 18 people inside the address celebrating, and issued them all with an £800 fine for breaching lockdown restrictions before sending them away.

Sergeant Luke Mitchell, who leads the Watford community safety unit, said: "This was a family gathering and the occupants of the house told officers they were celebrating a wedding anniversary.

"We understand just how difficult the past year has been, with many milestones missed for millions of people across the country, but we are in national lockdown for good reason.

"The £800 fixed penalty notices came into force on Friday 29 January and apply to gatherings of more than 15 people. While they will remain a last resort, we will not hesitate to issue them if we feel it is proportionate."

The latest number of new coronavirus cases in Watford are at its lowest levels since the end of November, but West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust was still looking after more Covid patients on February 9 (189 patients) than at any time during the spring peak (146 patients).

Sergeant Mitchell has "urged" residents to continue to stay at home and protect the NHS.

He said: "The statistics show that this lockdown is having a really positive effect on the R number and the virus is no longer spreading as aggressively as before.

"Please, we know it is so tough being separated from our friends and families, as we are going through the same thing, but we urge you to do all you can to help combat this virus.

"That means staying at home and protecting our NHS. We must pull together and see it through so we can return to some semblance of normality."

Hertfordshire Constabulary has warned it will continue to take enforcement action "if necessary".

Responding to the party in the Cassiobury area of the town, Watford mayor Peter Taylor said: "We have been working really hard with the police to keep our residents and businesses safe during the current lockdown. We understand that this is a difficult time for many people, however, the current restrictions are in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

"We are continuing to work proactively with residents to bring the number of Covid-19 cases down in Watford. Cases will only continue to drop if we follow the health advice and stick to safe working practises.

"If a person does not comply, then we will not hesitate to issue fixed penalty notices to those who are not exempt, yet continue to wilfully ignore what is mandatory."