More than 1,000 Covid fines issued by Hertfordshire Police since since start of pandemic
Fines were issued for failing to wear a face covering when required, breaching travel rules, large gatherings and breaking business regulations
Hertfordshire Constabulary has issued more than 1,000 fines for breaches of Covid-19-related laws since the start of the pandemic – but fewer have been handed out since restrictions eased.
Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council reveal a total of 1,092 fixed penalty notices were issued by Hertfordshire Constabulary between March 27 last year and May 16 this year.
They include 75 fines handed out after April 18 – 70 fewer than the 145 processed in the previous five weeks.
The latest figures cover the easing of restrictions on April 12, which saw the return of outdoor hospitality, non-essential retail and gyms as well as the "rule of six" outdoors.
However, they do not cover the May 17 reopening which saw different households allowed to mix indoors for the first time in months.
Of the fines issued in Hertfordshire between March 27 last year and May 16 this year the majority – 1,039 – were recorded under legislation which covers the restriction of movement and large gatherings.
Under other Covid-19-related regulations, there were 29 for failing to wear a face covering when required, and 13 for breaching international travel rules.
There were also eight for breaking business regulations and three for breaches of self-isolation regulations.
Chief Superintendent Nick Caveney said: “Throughout the pandemic, thankfully the vast majority of people in Hertfordshire have done the right thing and followed the rules so that we have not issued a large number of fixed penalty notices.
“It is clear that the regulations have been well-understood in our communities. On a few occasions it has been necessary to issue fines, for example to a large group of people socialising together indoors, and anyone attending or organising illegal parties or unlicensed music events can expect to be fined.
He added: “In Hertfordshire, as elsewhere, police officers continue to play an important role in helping the UK beat the virus and we will take swift and necessary action against those who blatantly disregard the rules.
“Our officers will continue to carry out patrols and will engage with the public to keep explaining the restrictions which remain in place at the time. Enforcement action is a last resort.
"We are working with local authorities, licensing authorities, COVID marshals and businesses as lockdown eases."
If you believe someone may be breaching the COVID-19 regulations, you can report information online, or call the non-emergency number 101.
Across England and Wales, 120,519 fines were issued by the 43 territorial police forces, British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence for alleged breaches of Covid-19-related laws.
Of those, 5,117 were handed out in the four weeks to May 16, down from 16,699 the month before.
Chairman of the NPCC, Martin Hewitt, said a drop in the number of fines in recent weeks had been expected due to the lifting of restrictions.
But he said police officers would not stop in taking action against rule-breakers across the country.
He added: “For the selfish minority who continue to blatantly break the rules, such as organising or attending illegal indoor gatherings, officers won’t hesitate to take necessary enforcement action."
The figures, which are updated monthly and cover the whole coronavirus period, could be impacted by fines processed late from previous months, as well as cancellations, the NPCC said.
Human rights campaign groups say rapidly changing rules and "chaotic communications" have led to confusion over the fine system nationally, with some people unaware they were breaking the law.
Human rights campaign group Liberty said "rapidly changing rules, chaotic communications and a misguided emphasis on criminal justice over public health" led to confusion over the fine system and meant interpretation of coronavirus restrictions varied across different police force areas.
Head of policy and campaigns, Sam Grant, said: "At the outset of this pandemic, the Government created sweeping and coercive powers to enforce rules that were communicated chaotically.
"Add to this rapid changes and local lockdowns and policing was inevitably going to be uneven."
People issued with a fine – the maximum is £10,000 – have up to 28 days to pay. Those who cannot pay or wish to contest it can take the matter before the courts.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said police officers have worked "tirelessly" to keep the public safe during the pandemic.
They added: "Whilst the majority of us have been able to stay at home our courageous officers have been out on the streets pursuing cimrinals, protecting the public and enforcing the coronavirus rules where necessary."