More than 1,000 fines for Covid-19 law breaches were issued by Hertfordshire Police over the past year
More than 600 fines were issued after December 20
More than 1,000 fines were issued by Hertfordshire Police for breaches of Covid-19 laws since the start of the pandemic, figures show.
Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) reveal a total of 1,017 fixed penalty notices were recorded as being issued by Hertfordshire Constabulary between March 27 last year and April 18 this year.
Of the fines in Hertfordshire from March 27 last year to April 18 this year there were 28 for failing to wear a face covering when required, and 11 for breaching international travel rules.
There were also eight for breaking business regulations and five for holding a gathering of more than 30 people.
They also included three fines that were given for breaching self-isolation regulations.
The remaining fines were for offences not specifically provided by the NPCC at a force level.
More than 600 of these fines - 637 - were issued after December 20, 63 per cent of the total handed out by officers since the pandemic began.
The figures also show the number of fines issued over more recent weeks, with 145 given out by officers between March 14 and April 18.
Across England and Wales, police forces have issued 110,322 fixed penalty notices under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations.
Hertfordshire Police's 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 our officers have not needed to issue a large number of fixed penalty notices.
“On a few occasions, it has been necessary to issue fines, for example to a large group of people socialising together indoors - clearly a blatant breach of lockdown restrictions,
“As this is one of the key rules remaining in place at the moment, we would urge residents to continue to play their part and keep following the rules as lockdown eases.”
He added: “During the most recent lockdown, it was clear that the rules were well-understood by most and, as we concentrated our efforts on protecting people from the risk of spreading the virus when it was at its peak, officers moved to enforcement more swiftly.”
Officers continue to be out in communities - engaging, explaining and encouraging people to act responsibly and follow coronavirus rules. Enforcement action is a last resort.
The Chief Superintendent added: "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, speak to an operator in our Force Communications Room via our online web chat or call the non-emergency number 101."
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has criticised the system, raising concerns over the validity of the fines, the inadequacy of the review and appeal process and the size of penalties.
The maximum penalty for the breach of a Covid-19 law is £10,000.
Harriet Harman, JCHR chair, said: “The police have had a difficult job in policing the pandemic. We hope that their initial approach – to engage, explain and encourage before issuing fixed penalty notices – will continue.
"However, since January there have been greater numbers of FPNs as police move more quickly to enforcement action."
Coronavirus rules have changed at least 65 times since March 2020, providing “obvious challenges for police”, according to a report by the JCHR.
The report said: "It is astonishing that the Coronavirus Act is still being misunderstood and wrongly applied by police to such an extent that every single criminal charge brought under the Act has been brought incorrectly."
The figures cover the end of the tier system, which saw stricter restrictions on hospitality businesses and a banning of travel between areas with different tiers.
It was followed by the third national lockdown from January 6 when people were told to stay at home.
Since then, a lifting of restrictions saw schools reopen in March followed by a rule allowing groups of up to six of two households to meet outside.
In April, measures were further relaxed with the opening of retail, public buildings and holiday lets.
The NPCC said it would be considering the recommendations in the JCHR report.
Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, NPCC lead for the police response to Covid-19, said: “Policing has quickly adapted to changes in these unprecedented circumstances.
"When new regulations are issued, we ensure officers have additional guidance on the legislation and we continue to support them to reduce any errors in its application.
"We do recognise however that we have not got it right in every circumstance."
He added that the NPCC would work with its criminal justice partners to rectify any errors.