Police in Suffolk have issued 289 fines for breaches of Covid-19 rules since lockdown started
A six-figure sum has been issued to Suffolk police to help enforce coronavirus rules, it has been confirmed – but nobody in the county has yet been issued a top-level £10,000 fine for Covid-19 breaches.
Suffolk police data from April 4 to September 19 indicated there had been 289 fixed penalty notices issued in Suffolk since lockdown started for breaches of those rules, 255 of which were issued to men – 88 per cent.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said it was a relatively low number. “I think that demonstrates the great consensus the vast majority of people in Suffolk have had,” he said.
“They have complied with the rules, they have looked after each other, the response of the voluntary community sector has been second to none, as well as that community cohesion. Long may that continue, that is the Suffolk way.”
He added: “I am not aware of any £10,000 fines, that is right at the top of the scale. The vast majority of fixed penalty tickets has been to males, and some of them unfortunately are repeat offenders who have had two or three tickets. That was before we went up to the £10,000 maximum fine.
“But the good news here is that the number of people flouting the rules is very low indeed.”
That data included people who had failed to stick to restrictions on movement during lockdown, those who failed to comply with instructions and those who exceeded the cap on gathering numbers.
The Home Office last week announced a £30million pot to help police forces nationwide enforce coronavirus rules, with Suffolk getting £270,181 for that.
The government said it was to help police increase patrols in town centres and ensure people are complying with the latest coronavirus rules.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “The vast majority of the British public has come together, followed the law and helped prevent the spread of this virus.
“But we’ve been clear that, with infections rising, we will not allow a small minority of people to reverse our hard-won progress.
“This extra funding will strengthen the police’s role in enforcing the law and make sure that those who jeopardise public health face the consequences.”
Suffolk Constabulary bosses and Mr Passmore are due to meet this week to form a plan on how that cash will be used, and must submit proposals by October 21.
“This is based on the four Es – engage, explain, encourage and enforce,” Mr Passmore said.
“The enforcement is a last resort but it will be focused on extra policing, perhaps over time extra costs or extra patrols, and is very much about the extra encouragement and engagement rather than enforcement as a last resort.”
A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman added: “We have tried to ensure any enforcement we have undertaken has been proportionate for the circumstances involved.
“Officers always try to strike a balance between understanding people’s worries over Covid-19 and being reasonable in the actions they take when people contravene the Government restrictions.
“Our focus will remain one of engagement, explanation, encouragement and enforcement when required. We will continue working closely with all of our partners as we have done during the pandemic.
“We must all continue to play our part in keeping the county as safe as possible.”
Meanwhile, Friday’s Police and Crime Panel meeting for Suffolk heard that the Home Office would cover all of the additional costs police forces will face, and remunerate 75 per cent of the lost income.
For Suffolk, extra costs for things such as PPE, changing office layouts and working from home capabilities currently amounts to £316,000, expected to be around £500,000 by the end of the financial year.
Meanwhile, income from speed awareness courses and providing policing for external events has also plummeted at around £366,000 lost currently with a financial year-end forecast of £705,000.