Surge in coronavirus fines issued by West Mercia Police

The number of Covid fines issued by the police force covering Shropshire has risen significantly in the space of five weeks, latest figures show.

A total of 490 fines for breaching Covid laws were given out by West Mercia Police officers between March 14 and April 18.

Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council reveal a total of 2,660 fixed penalty notices were recorded as being issued by the police force between March 27 last year and April 18 this year.

They include 1,912 fines after December 20 – 72 per cent of the total handed out by officers since the pandemic began.

Of the total amount, more than 340 were issued for failing to wear a face covering when required; nine were given for breaching international travel rules; 18 for breaking business regulations and two for holding a gathering of more than 30 people.

Meanwhile, more than 2,100 fixed penalty notices have now been issued by Dyfed-Powys Police for breaching Covid laws.

Across England and Wales, police forces have issued 110,322 fixed penalty notices under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations.

In a report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said the Coronavirus Act had been misunderstood and wrongly applied by police.

The committee has criticised the system, raising concerns over the validity of the fines, the inadequacy of the review and appeal process and the size of penalties.

The maximum penalty for the breach of a Covid-19 law is £10,000.

The figures cover the end of the tier system, which saw stricter restrictions on hospitality businesses and a banning of travel between areas with different tiers.

It was followed by the third national lockdown from January 6 when people were told to stay at home.

Since then, a lifting of restrictions saw schools reopen in March followed by a rule allowing groups of up to six of two households to meet outside.

In April, measures were further relaxed with the opening of retail, public buildings and holiday lets.

The NPCC said it would be considering the recommendations in the JCHR report.

Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, NPCC lead for the police response to Covid-19, said: “Policing has quickly adapted to changes in these unprecedented circumstances.

"When new regulations are issued, we ensure officers have additional guidance on the legislation and we continue to support them to reduce any errors in its application.

"We do recognise however that we have not got it right in every circumstance."

He added that the NPCC would work with its criminal justice partners to rectify any errors.

Chief Inspector Jessica Loxley-Clark of West Mercia Police said: “West Mercia Police, together with other forces across the country, has and continues to follow the four Es approach to policing the coronavirus regulations of Engage, Explain, Encourage and where necessary Enforce.

“The number of fines processed have been going down in recent weeks, which is to be expected as restrictions are lifted following the full lockdown just after Christmas.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the majority of people who have abided by the regulations and to ask that they continue to do so as we move along the roadmap out of lockdown.

“However, where there is a blatant breach, such as a large indoor gathering, we will not hesitate in moving straight to enforcement.”

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