Police withdraw 39 lockdown fines mistakenly issued to children
Nearly 40 fines mistakenly handed to children for alleged rule breaking during the coronavirus lockdown have been withdrawn. Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen said on Wednesday that the law does not allow fixed penalty notices for lockdown breaches to be issued to under-18s. She revealed a total of 3,203 fines were issued between March 27 and April 13 by police forces in England. Over the Easter weekend alone there were 290 in Wales. But 39 of those fines were wrongly issued to children in England and subsequently withdrawn.
Meanwhile, members of the public – some as old as 100 years old – were hit with a £60 penalty, which is reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks. Advertisement Advertisement One in three of the fines were handed to 18-24-year-olds, with a further third going to those aged 25-34. In total, 26 people aged between 65 to 100 also received notices. Police said that 83 people were brought straight to court for allegedly breaking the rules. However, along with handing children fines, a number of mistakes have been made in applying the sweeping new laws. National Police Chiefs Council chairman Martin Hewitt admitted there had been a ‘very small number’ of errors but insisted ‘tens and tens of thousands’ of encounters with police had been appropriate.
Greater Manchester Police apologised after a man was threatened with spray and arrested as he dropped off food for vulnerable family members. British Transport Police wrongly fined a 41-year-old woman £660, while Met Police admitted a 21-year-old man was wrongly convicted and fined. His charge has since been set aside. South Yorkshire Police apologised for a ‘well-intentioned but ill-informed’ conversation in which an officer appeared to tell a family they were not allowed to play in their own front garden. Cheshire Police previously said in a tweet it had issued summonses for ‘multiple people from the same household going to the shops for non-essential items’, but later admitted this information was an ‘error’. Advertisement Advertisement Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley said officers would start checking supermarket trolleys if people did not adhere to lockdown rules, but later backtracked and the Home Secretary said the measure was ‘not appropriate’.
Cambridge Police insisted it was not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets, following comments by an ‘over exuberant officer’ on non-essential shopping aisles. And Warwickshire Police said five outstanding charges brought under the laws, which are yet to go before the court, would be dropped. Mr Hewitt said the new laws came in at ‘great speed’ and police officers were ‘trying to do their best in very, very difficult and unusual circumstances.’ He said: ‘We will say sorry if we got it wrong. Of course there have been mistakes and I think we have been very quick to come forward when we have made mistakes. ‘But I would like to think that the public would have some recognition of the fact that this is legislation that came in at high speed a few weeks ago, is highly, highly unusual and we are having to adapt to that across the whole of the service.
‘Whenever there have been any incidents where something was done that was not how it should have been done we will rectify that. Advertisement ‘I think we have been absolutely clear and upfront about rectifying any mistakes that we have made.’ Ms Glen, who is also the NPCC lead for charging and out of court disposals, said a 5% ‘human error rate’ is factored into data when measuring performance. However, she added the number of mistakes under the new laws is ‘way below that’ and the ‘vast majority of officers are getting it right’. She said in England there were 398 enforcements last Friday and 424 on Saturday, when the country widely saw temperatures of above 20C, before a drop to 177 on Monday as the weather turned cooler.