Covid fines surge in England and Wales as police adopt hardline approach

Police hand out 40% of all fines issued since start of pandemic in four weeks to mid-February

About 40% of all fines handed out by police for breaches of Covid-19 laws since the start of the pandemic in England and Wales were issued in the most recent four-week period as police adopted a more hardline approach and “fatigue” with the rules set in.

A total of 68,952 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued by forces, including 63,201 in England and 5,751 in Wales, between 27 March last year and 14 February, data published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) revealed.

The NPCC said 26,277 were issued between 17 January and 14 February, 40% of the total since the pandemic began.

The NPCC chairman, Martin Hewitt, told reporters the surge in fines was a mix of tougher enforcement, targeted policing and weariness with the restrictions.


“The rules are clear enough and have been around for long enough now there’s no excuse for people not to understand them,” he said.

“We would still do a bit of explaining, but once we had encouraged people to do what they needed to do, if they did not do that, we would go much more quickly to issuing a fixed penalty notice. So there’s something about our stance.

“Because of that pressure we’ve been deploying Covid specific patrol patterns in places we know we’ve been seeing the most serious breaches.”

He added: “There’s a fatigue in the country. We’ve been living this for 11 months. It’s hard, it’s restrictive on people’s lives. The numbers have to say there have been more people who have breached the rules and not taken the encouragement we’ve given them.”

The figures show 272 £10,000 fines have been handed to organisers of mass gatherings of more than 30 people, including illegal raves, parties and protests, in England, with three in Wales, while 485 £800 tickets have been issued to people attending gatherings of more than 15 people.

There have been 582 FPNs issued to businesses up to 14 February with the main reasons being businesses not enforcing face-covering regulations, refusing to close during the emergency period, gatherings of more than the restricted number taking place within the business and not adhering to the table service only rules.

A salon owner in Kirklees is yet to pay almost £20,000 in fixed penalty notices issued by her local council after refusing the close her business during lockdown.

Sinead Quinn, the owner of Quinn Blakey Hairdressers in Bradford, West Yorkshire, was taken to court last year for opening her salon several times during lockdown. The salon’s failure to close gained prominence after Quinn justified her decision to attempt to stay open by posting a note to the salon’s door which quoted the Magna Carta.

A GoFundMe page created by Quinn has raised over £10,000 from almost 500 donors, with her writing in the fundraiser’s description that she did not think the council would be “successful in trying to extort money from me”.

A Kirklees council spokesperson said that the total owed by Quinn to the council was £19,455, which includes court costs of £2,455, which she was ordered to pay by a judge in January. The court costs came after Kirklees council secured an injunction, which runs until 31 March, forbidding her from opening the salon.

Some 402 fines have been issued by forces in England and three in Wales to people failing to self-isolate after arriving from a country on the government quarantine list up to February 14.

The data does not include regulations around hotel quarantine for those entering the country from red countries, which came into force on 15 February.

Hewitt said he was unaware of any attempts made by travellers to abscond from hotel quarantine, although police had been called to some hotels to deal with misbehaviour by the residents being quarantined.


Jamie Grierson and Tobi Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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