Covid: £10k fines for gatherings can resume, say police chiefs

Covid: £10k fines for gatherings can resume, say police chiefs

Forces in England and Wales can resume issuing £10,000 fines for breaches of Covid rules on gatherings of more than 30 people, police chiefs have said.

On Friday the NPCC advised forces to temporarily issue a court summons rather than a fixed penalty notice.

There were concerns about a potential disparity between the amount being paid by some upfront, compared to those who challenged the fixed penalty in court.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said this issue had now been addressed.

A spokesman said: “Following discussions with government, the issue we flagged last Friday has been fully addressed, and forces are advised that they can resume issuing £10,000 FPNs [fixed penalty notices] where appropriate.”

“People found to be in breach of the regulations relating to gatherings of over 30 people will be made fully aware of their options when faced with a £10k FPN, to ensure fairness.

“The option of summons will remain available to officers, as it always has been, should the unique circumstances of a case mean that this is the most appropriate course of action. However, the vast majority of cases can be dealt with by way of FPN.”

In a statement earlier on Tuesday, a government spokesperson said: “It is right that we have a strong deterrent. We are working with forces to ensure people are fully aware of their options when faced with a fixed penalty notice.

“If someone chooses not to pay their fixed penalty notice, the matter may be considered by a court and the individual could be subject to a criminal conviction.”

The NPCC said it had previously advised temporarily suspending the use of fixed penalty notices “because of a potential disparity between those who opt to pay the FPN and those who see their case reach the court where the FPN would be means tested against personal income”.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson had previously asked ministers for “urgent clarity” on the issue, and accused the government of failing to provide the police with “workable Covid legislation”.

In a letter to the policing minister Kit Malthouse, Labour’s Mr Jamieson said: “I feel thoroughly embarrassed that I have been personally supporting the government’s actions, which, at best, are questionable.”

West Midlands Police has already issued 13 of the fines, reserved for the most serious social-distancing breaches.

Coronavirus restrictions vary in each of the UK’s four nations.

A new lockdown is in force in England, and Wales has now ended a short “circuit breaker” lockdown, but still has some restrictions in place.

Elsewhere, Scotland has moved to a five-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, while Northern Ireland has extended its own temporary lockdown.

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