Lockdown breach fines plummet as restrictions ease
Just 841 have been handed out by forces in England since rules relaxed.
The number of fines for breaches of lockdown rules has plunged since measures were eased, with just 841 handed out by police in England, new figures show.
A total of 16,947 fixed penalty notices (FPNs), including 15,552 in England and 1,395 in Wales, were recorded by forces up to May 25, according to provisional data released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
There were 1,019 issued in England during the latest two-week period, between May 12 and 25 – although the figure is likely to be revised upwards as more fines are reported – compared to 4,967 during the previous fortnight.
Just 841 fines were handed out by forces in England since lockdown measures were eased on Wednesday May 13 with the highest number (178) during the latest period given the day before.
The NPCC said penalties have been given to people for driving with others who are not members of their household, house parties, large gatherings and camping, since restrictions were relaxed.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “As restrictions are carefully eased, the public have been able to go about their business in greater numbers, and with greater flexibility.
“The collective public effort over the past two months has meant police officers have only rarely had to step in to enforce regulations and even less so in the past few weeks.
“I am confident the vast majority will continue to act responsibly. We will be issuing guidance to officers on how to approach new changes to the regulations in the coming days.
“The overarching aim of the police response has always been to keep people as safe as possible, and encourage them to follow the regulations, thereby reducing the transmission of the virus.
“We will continue to play our part and are grateful for all of the positive engagement we have had with the public to date.”
Police were given powers to break up gatherings and fine people for breaching restriction of movement rules under the Health Protection Regulations 2020, from March 27.
The fines carried penalties of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks, with the fine doubled for each repeat offence up to a £960 maximum.
Higher fines were brought in England – £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days, and rising to a maximum of £3,200 for subsequent offences – from May 13.
Friday’s figures are the first to be released since the row about Dominic Cummings’ 260-mile drive to Durham with his wife and four-year-old son, and their trip to Barnard Castle.
Previous updates had been given as part of a briefing, with journalists allowed to ask senior officers questions.
Of the 43 regional police forces in England and Wales, the Metropolitan Police have recorded the highest number of fines, with 1,035, followed by North Yorkshire, with 1,032, and Devon and Cornwall, with 906.
Warwickshire has issued the fewest, with just 40.
Durham Constabulary, which concluded the Prime Minister’s chief adviser may have committed “a minor breach” of lockdown rules, but will face no further action, have handed out a total of 155 fines.
Some 1,020 fixed penalty notices have been handed to repeat offenders, including one person who has been fined 10 times.
The NPCC said most penalties have been given to young men, aged between 18 and 24, with more issued on weekends and during warm weather.
It comes ahead of a further easing of lockdown restrictions on Monday, with those in England allowed to gather in groups of six in parks or private gardens.
But Downing Street said police do not have the power to enter gardens to check numbers.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Under the coronavirus regulations police do not have the power to enter a home.
“They have the power to enter a home separately if they believe serious criminality is taking place, but in terms of the regulations it does not allow them to enter private properties.
“I’m sure that members of the public will show common sense and will want to abide by the rules, police will have the power to enforce the regulations using the proportional and pragmatic approach they’ve taken so far.”
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