Nearly 1,000 Covid fines issued in Bedfordshire – including two for large gatherings
Bedfordshire Police have issued nearly 1,000 fines for breaching coronavirus laws – including two for holding large gatherings.
Human rights group Liberty said communities had been subjected to disproportionate and damaging policing while Number 10 staff “attended cocktail parties”.
Figures released by the National Police Chiefs Council show that 982 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued by Bedfordshire Police between March 27, 2020 and December 19 last year.
Of these, 10 were recorded from May 17, 2021, when different households were allowed to mix indoors for the first time after several months of confinement.
Since that date, some forces have revised their total number of fines downwards, while others have imposed hundreds.
FPNs can be canceled following a review or canceled if several were issued in error, resulting in some regions in fewer fines over time.
In England and Wales, 124,581 fines have been issued by the 43 territorial police forces, the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defense for alleged breaches of laws related to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic .
Liberty said the government had given police “direct and coercive powers to enforce closures”, when they should have prioritized public health.
Jun Pang, the organization’s policy and campaign manager, said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen overzealous policing and chaotic communications, leaving people confused and fearful of prosecution.
“The discrepancies in these regional figures show that the restrictions were unclear, leaving local police forces to interpret the law. Obviously, this opened the door to inconsistency and discrimination.”
The government has recently come under fire following a series of reports of parties and large gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street while the rest of the UK was under restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already apologized after it emerged his Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to a ‘bring your own booze’ party in Garden No 10 in May 2020 when first locked.
Of the FPNs issued across England and Wales so far, 377 were for holding a gathering of more than 30 people – including two in Bedfordshire.
Ms Pang added: “Now we know that while some communities were subjected to disproportionate and harmful policing and excluded from support, those in power were attending parties at Number 10.
“It’s typical of a government that considers itself above the law – and is currently pushing through various pieces of legislation to make itself untouchable.”
An NPCC spokesman said all forces sought first to engage and explain Covid laws to people, and only apply them when necessary.
Deputy Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, NPCC lead for Operation Talla, the police response to the pandemic, said there were still some restrictions – such as the use of masks and car rules -isolation – in place for a reason.
He added: “We have seen very high compliance from the public.
“Officers have very rarely had to use their powers in recent months, applying only in the event of a clear breach of the rules or when people have failed to respond to explanations and encouragement.”