Covid rule breakers across region slapped with more than £200,000 in fines

Twenty-five people in West Mercia and more than 350 in Dyfed and Powys were convicted and fined for breaching coronavirus laws last year, figures show - with fines totalling more than £200,000.

Ministry of Justice data shows that in 2020, there were 25 court prosecutions in the area served by West Mercia Police for breaches of restrictions introduced at the beginning of the pandemic.

They resulted in 25 convictions, with all leading to fines.

The largest number of fines, 16, ranged from £300 to £500 while four convictions resulted in fines of between £500 and £750.

In total, £10,400 in fines were issued by the courts in West Mercia.

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

“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, particularly as we start to enjoy this warmer weather with friends and family both indoors and outdoors now.

“The restrictions that remain are there for a reason and it’s important we all continue to follow them to help tackle the upsurge of variants and get the final lock along the roadmap lifted, and [we] will continue to issue fines where people breach those restrictions still in place.”

Defendant

The data shows that in 2020, there were also 375 court prosecutions in the area served by Dyfed-Powys Police for breaches, resulting in 360 convictions and all led to fines.

The largest number of fines, 273, ranged from £500 to £750.

In total, £196,439 in fines were issued by the courts in Dyfed and Powys.

All the convictions were for breaches of emergency restrictions.

The figures detail all prosecution outcomes, so the same defendant could have been listed more than once.

Across England and Wales, of 4,365 prosecutions against people for breaching coronavirus laws, 3,535 (81 per cent) resulted in convictions.

In total, £1.3 million in fines were issued. Not one conviction led to the maximum fine of £10,000.

The figures come amid criticism of the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions, in particular the use of a fast-track system which sees cases dealt with by a legal adviser and a single magistrate out of court.

This process, known as the single justice procedure, is aimed at reducing paperwork and freeing up court time, but in a report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said it meant defendants were unable to provide any reasonable excuse for why they breached the law.

The MoJ said the decision to use the single justice procedure lay with the prosecutor.

A spokesperson said: "The single justice procedure allows those who plead guilty to low-level, non-imprisonable crimes to resolve their case without going to court – it would not be used for more serious offences.

"All defendants can request an open hearing and have their conviction voiced and reheard if necessary."

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