Almost 1,000 Covid fines issued by Bedfordshire Police - 58 for failing to wear a face covering and six for breaching international travel rules
As restrictions ease, police chief urges people not to be complacent - particularly in Bedford
Bedfordshire Police has issued almost 1,000 fines for breaches of Covid-19-related laws – but far fewer have been handed out since restrictions eased.
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.
Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) reveal a total of 972 fixed penalty notices were issued by Bedfordshire Police between March 27 last year and May 16 this year.
They include just nine fines handed out after April 18 – 113 fewer than the 122 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.
Chief Superintendent John Murphy said: “Although restrictions have been eased over the last few weeks, unfortunately cases of Covid-19 are still high in some parts of the county, particularly Bedford, which is why we are encouraging people not to become complacent.
“We know the vast majority of our residents are playing their part and sticking to the rules and would urge people to continue to remember hands, face, space and meet with friends and family outdoors if possible, as this all helps to reduce the spread of the virus.
“However, public health remains our number one priority. Although fines and enforcement are a last resort for us and we will always engage with people first, we will take firm action against those who organise and attend large illegal gatherings that go against the current government guidance and potentially put a large number of people at risk.”
Of the fines issued in Bedfordshire between March 27 last year and May 16 this year the majority – 901 – were recorded under legislation which covers the restriction of movement and large gatherings.
Under other Covid-19-related regulations, there were 58 for failing to wear a face covering when required, and six for breaching international travel rules.
There were also six for breaking business regulations and one for breaches of self-isolation regulations.
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.