Police issue more than 3,000 fines to lockdown rule breakers
A total of 3,493 fines for alleged breaches of coronavirus lockdown laws were issued in England and Wales between March 27 and April 13, police chiefs have revealed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned people could be penalised when he announced unprecedented emergency measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 on March 23. Despite repeated pleas from the Government not to go away for the Easter weekend, many Britons did not listen. One family from London were caught by police, fined and told to go back home after driving 200 miles to Devon for a fishing holiday. Last week a dad was fined £480 after his teenage son flouted lockdown rules three times in the Blakenall area of Walsall. A couple on Brighton Beach were filmed accusing police of ‘ruining their fricking day’ after officers put out their barbecue using a helmet as a water bucket. Meanwhile a woman in Richmond, South-West London who told police she was out ‘exercising her mind’ was arrested for refusing to move from a park bench.
People who disobey these measures could end up saddled with a £60 fine and potentially another for £120 for a second offence, with the penalty doubling for additional breaches. Currently Britons are only allowed out for essential shopping, one form of exercise a day, for any medical need, to help a vulnerable person or to go to workplaces that are still allowed to remain open.
National Police Chiefs Council chairman Martin Hewitt said: ‘The vast majority of people are staying at home in order to protect the NHS and help save lives. ‘However, we have seen a small minority of people who, despite our best efforts, have refused to follow the instructions and officers have needed to use their enforcement powers.’ Police forces in England said they had to enforce 3,203 Covid-19 related fines between March 27 and Easter Monday, while 290 were issued in Wales on the bank holiday weekend.
Around 82% of the penalties were given to men and 15% to women with 3% unknown. Police say 60% of fines were given to people who identify as white while 23% were dished out to people who did not disclose their ethnicity. Those who said they were Asian accounted for 10% of fines, black for 4% and mixed race for 2%. Incidents appeared to ramp up when the weather was nicer, with 398 fines on Good Friday and 424 on Saturday, when temperatures hit 25C. But when conditions dropped to around 14C on Easter Monday only 177 were issued.
Between March 27 and April 13, 39 fines were wrongly issued to children by police in England. Explaining that the penalties will be withdrawn, national lead for out of court disposals, Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen the notices ‘will be rescinded because the legislation doesn’t allow it’. Members of the public as old as 100 were slapped with a £60 fine, that is reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks.
A third of the fines went to those aged 18-24, with a further third going to those aged 25-34. Police said that 83 people were brought straight to court for allegedly breaking the rules. The National Police Chiefs’ Council gave a force-by-force breakdown of the number of penalty notices issued, with the highest in Lancashire where 380 were handed out. Thames Valley Police chalked up 219, while Surrey issued 205. Updating the country on how crime levels have changed during the pandemic, Mr Hewitt said there had been a 28% drop in England and Wales in the four weeks to April 12 compared to the same period last year. There has been a 37% reduction in burglary and a 27% drop in vehicle crime, serious assault, personal robbery and rape offences, according to police data. But reports of anti-social behaviour have risen by 59% and fears have been raised of an increase in domestic violence amid enforced isolation at home. At Saturday’s Downing Street press conference Home Secretary Priti Patel revealed the Government is working with charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to provide an additional £2 million to bolster helplines and online support for those whose ‘homes are not the safe havens they should be’.