Police chiefs suspend on-the-spot £10,000 fines for Covid rule breakers

17 November 2020, 15:52 | Updated: 18 November 2020, 08:06

The fines will be issued as a court summons instead
The fines will be issued as a court summons instead. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Police chiefs have suspended on-the-spot £10,000 fines for breaching coronavirus lockdown restrictions over fears of unfairness between those who pay up front and those who challenge the penalty in court.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has advised forces not to hand out the “super-fine” fixed penalties for mass gatherings of more than 30 people.

It comes after concerns were raised about potential inequality between those who pay up within 28 days, and those who challenge the notices in court.

Instead the fines will be issued as a summons to magistrates court where they can be means tested, meaning the recipient’s ability to pay is taken into account.

Dozens of the strict penalties have already been issued by officers across the country to individuals and businesses flouting the new legislation.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman told LBC: “On Friday 13 November we advised all forces to temporarily take enforcement steps by way of summons, rather than by issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice to the value of £10,000 for offences relating to gatherings of over thirty people under Covid regulations.

“We gave this advice 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.

“We are working with government to urgently address this matter, and once rectified, we intend to advise that forces resume issuing £10,000 FPNs wherever appropriate."

NPCC vice-chairman and West Midlands Police chief constable David Thompson said: “It is unhelpful this issue has arisen, but actually there is still legislation.

“The point I would make to the public is we will carry on enforcing this area of the law. The difference is it won’t be a ticket, it will be through a summons.”

He added that the force had employed a “very tight policy” around issuing the super-fines, “because we have been very conscious a £10,000 levied fine is substantial”, but had stopped issuing them “last week”.

The Government’s policing minister Kit Malthouse has been asked to provide “urgent” clarification over the fines.

Labour’s West Midlands regional police and crime commissioner David Jamieson accused the Government of failing to provide the police with “workable Covid legislation”.

Nottinghamshire’s Labour police and crime commissioner, Paddy Tipping, said he was “surprised at the guidance from the NPCC”, having received a written commendation from Home Secretary Priti Patel for being the first force to issue a super-fine.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.