The court session got under way at around 9am on Monday. Most of the 122 people appearing before the court during the next three day are young adults. All were caught at lockdown parties in Antwerp and the surrounding area during the past few weeks.
The Public Prosecutor described those that are standing trial as "Anti-social and ego-centric. It’s their own business if they want to endanger themselves. However, they are also endangering others including their own parents and grandparents. Because of them the figures are moving in a negative way."
"During the period in which these parties were held an average of 130 died every day. They won’t be able to celebrate their birthdays next year anymore. Only by issuing stiff sentences can we hope that they come to the realisation that corona is not a fairy tale”.
Those on trial risk a prison sentence of between 8 days and 3 months and fines of between 208 and 4,000 euro.
But why did they do it?
Those that stood before the court on Monday morning gave a whole range of excuses for their behaviour, there were also expressions of regret and denials of any wrongdoing.
"A was just going to do my washing” one young woman told the court. She was caught in the company of 11 other people at a Halloween party in Schoten, just outside Antwerp.
"Then other people came in. I wasn’t that aware of the measures. I don’t have a TV or a mobile phone. Now I know about it, it won’t happen again" The Police Judge presiding at the hearing appeared not to grant much credibility to the woman’s promise.
Another defendant said “But now I have really learned my lesson".
Others admit that they were aware that they were breaching the rules but “It was the first time. I had been alone at home for a long time and I wanted to go out”. Or “Corona has been going on for nearly a year, we’ve been at home for 8 months and we were bored. We were wrong”.
Another defendant told the court “I wasn’t there for very long, 20 minutes. I hadn’t expected that there would be so many people there”.
Another said, "I had heard through friends that there was a party, I won’t say who told me. I let my hair down, but it was a one-off”
“Do you have grandparents?”, the Judge asked.
"Yes, I have made a mistake and I deeply regret it.”, the defendant replied.
Several other defendants claimed that the party they were at wasn’t planned or that they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Others claimed that they were at the parties to collect their friends and had not taken part themselves.