Police in Gwent seem to be taking a harder line when dealing with people who may have breached coronavirus regulations – latest data suggests.
Figures published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council show that a total of 889 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been issued by the force – with 570 handed out since the start of Wales’ latest lockdown in December last year.
The figures are for the period March 27, 2020, to February 14, 2021.
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Why is Caerphilly in Gwent?
Caerphilly County Borough was formed on April 1, 1996, by the merger of the Rhymney Valley district of Mid Glamorgan with the Islwyn borough of Gwent.
Administratively, for local services such as the police and health, the borough now falls under a wider region referred to as Gwent. This comprises the council areas of Caerphilly, Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire.
When dealing with people who may be in breach of Wales’ coronavirus regulations, police have been issued with guidance from the National College of Policing which states a four-step process should be followed.
It reads: “Officers should continue to engage members of the public and explain changes. If necessary they should offer encouragement to comply. However if the individual or group do not respond appropriately, then enforcement can follow without repeated attempts to encourage people to comply with the law.
“We police by consent. The initial police response should be to encourage voluntary compliance. Policing will continue to apply the four-step escalation principles: Engage; Explain; Encourage; and only Enforce as a last resort.”
On Sunday, February 28, Gwent Police posted on social media that it had issued fines to two people who had travelled to Cwmcarn Forest Drive.
The current regulations in force state “exercise must start and finish at the place where the person is living or where a member of the person’s extended household is living”, so it seems the pair probably did break the rules.
Caerphilly Observer asked Gwent Police how the issuing of the fines in this instance was compatible with the National College of Policing guidance, in that enforcement should only be the last resort.
In a statement, the force replied: “”Since the start of the health pandemic we have been working with our local communities to keep everyone safe.
“We have continued to encourage people to play their part and follow the Welsh Government restrictions to stay at home and only travel when necessary, engaging with our communities through social media messaging and in person when on patrol. Together with other forces and partners organisations we have also been sending out clear messaging around beauty spots, asking people not to make such unnecessary journeys.
“Where an officer finds someone breaking the law the circumstances of each breach are taken into consideration, and for those who knowingly go against the restrictions, blatantly flouting the rules, we do and will continue to take enforcement action.
“Everyone has a part to play in stopping the spread of this virus and by following the advice we’re all saving lives and protecting the NHS.”
How much are coronavirus fines?
Anyone contravening these requirements commits an offence, punishable on summary conviction by a fine. These are non-recordable offences. They can’t be punished by imprisonment. Where someone is reasonably believed to have committed an offence and is 18 or over, the police may issue them with a fine:
Gatherings in private dwellings and public places, travel restrictions, requirement to wear face coverings
- the amount of the fixed penalty is £60 payable within 28 days, but this is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. The amount of the fine will double for each subsequent offence up to £1,920 for the sixth and each subsequent offence
Participating in a large gathering at a private dwelling
- the amount of the fixed penalty is £60
Organising an event
- the amount of the fixed penalty is £500, but if the person has already received a fixed penalty in relation to this offence, the amount is £1,000, this increases to £2,000 for the third offence and £4,00 for the fourth and each subsequent offence. (Reduction for payment within 14 days does not apply)
Unlicensed music events
- where someone is reasonably believed to have committed an offence, the police may issue them with a fixed penalty for £10,000 payable within 28 days (the reduction for payment within 14 days does not apply)
Enforcement of business closures and breaches of opening hours on licensed premises will be led by local authorities.
The amount of the fixed penalty is £1,000 in the first offence, £2,000 for the second, £4,000 for the third and £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences.
Source: College of Policing website
BBC Wales has reported that police officers are facing “greater hostility” from the public when dealing with potential rukebreakers.
South Wales Police Federation head Steve Treharne told BBC Radio Wales that officers were dealing with “significant problems” of people gathering in public spaces.
He said: “The off-licences are open, people are purchasing alcohol and of course that brings us significant problems, and our officers are now facing greater hostility from members of the public and it’s not really fair.
“Our officers don’t draft the legislation, they’ve got a job to do and they can only enforce the legislation that’s there.”
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