More than 800 fines given to Covid rule-breakers
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
More than 800 fines have been handed out to people flouting Covid-19 regulations across Suffolk and Essex, latest figures have revealed.
From March 27 up to December 20, Essex Police dished out 505 fixed penalty notices to coronavirus rule-breakers while officers in Suffolk gave out 315 fines under emergency health protection regulations.
The latest data from the NPCC (National Police Chiefs' Council) also revealed that in Essex, 18 fines were issued to people not adhering to face covering rules, while six fixed penalty notices were handed out for large gatherings of more than 30 people.
In Suffolk, four fines were given to people for not wearing masks but the force did not issue any penalties in relation to large gatherings.
Nationally, 32,329 fines have been issued in total across England and Wales from March 27 to December 20, with the majority (13,946) handed out for "Contravene requirement as to restriction of movement during emergency period".
Over the weekend, home secretary and Witham MP Priti Patel defended the way police have handed out fines for lockdown breaches, and warned that officers "will not hesitate" to take action.
She said the increasing number of new Covid-19 cases proved there was a need for "strong enforcement" in cases where people were clearly breaking the rules.
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Her comments came after recently published guidance from the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said officers no longer need to give repeated warnings before issuing fines.
Ms Patel said: "Our police officers are working tirelessly to keep us safe. Not only are they continuing to take criminals off our streets, but they are also playing a crucial role in controlling the spread of the virus.
"The vast majority of the public have supported this huge national effort and followed the rules.
"But the tragic number of new cases and deaths this week shows there is still a need for strong enforcement where people are clearly breaking these rules to ensure we safeguard our country's recovery from this deadly virus.
"Enforcing these rules saves lives. It is as simple as that. Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary."
While the chief constable of Essex Police, BJ Harrington said yesterday that the force would enforce "flagrant or deliberate" breaches.
He tweeted: "I assure people of Essex that Essex Police will continue to engage, explain and encourage people to observe guidelines that help save lives.
"Officers will use discretion and judgement, but will enforce regulations where there are flagrant or deliberate breaches."