More £10,000 Covid-19 fines taken off Northamptonshire's tally as MPs label system "muddled and unfair"

Police chief said 14 in January...now the total is just six

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 10:58 am

The number of £10,000 fines issued by Northamptonshire Police during the Covid-19 pandemic is now down to just SIX — eight fewer than was being claimed earlier this year.

Latest figures from the National Police Chiefs Council revealed six mega-fines for gatherings of 30-plus people in the county up to April 18.

That is three fewer than nine reported by the NPCC last month — and eight down on the 14 Chief Constable Nick Adderley said had been issued by mid-January.

Former solicitor general Harriet Harman (left) and Northamptonshire's Chief Constable Nick Adderley

A parliamentary committee last week called for ALL fixed penalty notices for Covid lockdown breaches to be reviewed.

Police pledged to carry on issuing fines issuing £10,000 fines where warranted after a court hearing into a funeral collapsed last month.

Prosecutors ruled there was insufficient evidence to identify the organiser of the gathering in Kettering last November.

In March, senior officers admitted that ALL the £10,000 fines issued in Northamptonshire were being challenged.

More than 3,100 fixed penalty notices have been issued county-wide since the pandemic began, mostly £200 tickets for failing to adhere to stay-at-home regulations, not wearing face coverings in shops or on public transport, or mixing with other households indoors.

A government spokesman insisted it was right there were consequences for those who most flagrantly breached the rules.

But MPs on the Joint Committee on Human Rights said the system is "muddled, discriminatory and unfair" adding it had "significant concerns" about the fines' validity, the inadequacy of the review and appeal process and the size of the penalties.

Committee chair, veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman admitted that police had a tough job enforcing the rules during the pandemic.

But she warned a "lack of legal clarity" means a large number of fines could have been issued wrongly with a warning that "those who can't afford to pay face a criminal record along with all the resulting consequences for their future development."

The all-party committee, which is made up of 12 MPs and peers, recognised swift action had been needed in the face of the pandemic last year but warned the government needed to ensure rules were clear, enforcement was fair and that mistakes could be rectified.

Ms Harman, a former solicitor general in Tony Blair's government, added: "None of that is the case in respect of Covid-19 fixed penalty notices."

According to the committee's report, coronavirus rules have changed at least 65 times since March 2020.

NPCC figures show Northamptonshire officers issued 419 FPNs for Covid-19 breaches between March 15 and April 18 — just over half the 802 given out in the previous month.

The Force has now issued 3,175 FPNs since March 2020.

Superintendent Elliot Foskett, silver commander for Northamptonshire's Covid-19 response, said: “While the number of fines we’ve issued recently has fallen from previous levels, our officers are continuing to help prevent Covid-19 infections from rising again by continuing to enforce against those who blatantly disregard the rules.

“It’s great to see that so many of the public in Northamptonshire continue to follow the rules, responsibly enjoying the new freedoms the legislation now allows.

“It is important that the sacrifices that so many people have made to get us to this point are not wasted, and once again we offer our thanks to everyone who is doing the right thing and following the rules.”

Report breaches of Covid-19 legislation by calling 101 or go online HERE.