50-guest christening among 6,000 Covid fines issued across Black Country and Staffordshire

Police forces in the region have handed out almost 6,000 fines for breaches of virus-related laws since the start of the pandemic.

Police issued nearly 6,000 fines across the region during the pandemic
Police issued nearly 6,000 fines across the region during the pandemic

The figures were released as human rights campaigners claim communities have been subjected to disproportionate and harmful policing while staff at 10 Downing Street have been “attending drinks parties”.

Latest statistics published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council show 3,924 fixed penalty notices were issued by West Midlands Police between March 27, 2020 and December 19 last year. While 1,930 fixed penalty notices were issued by Staffordshire Police.

The West Midlands force recorded 95 tickets from May 17, 2021 when different households were allowed to mix indoors for the first time and four were issued in neighbouring Staffordshire.

Of the notices issued so far for holding a gathering of more than 30 people – 24 were issued in the West Midlands and just one in Staffordshire.

Police were given the power to fine people up to £10,000 for breaking rules. Fines for not wearing a mask were £200, which was halved to £100 if paid within 14 days.

In one case police issued a £10,000 fine in 2020 after a christening with up to 50 guests at a home in the Black Country. Guests had travelled to the pre-planned party in the Blakenhall area of Wolverhampton on Saturday from as far afield as London.

The party included hired marquees, DJ decks and live musicians. The flouting of the laws came as Wolverhampton remained in Tier 2 at the time. Hefty fines have also been handed out after large-scale raves and gatherings in pubs.

Chief Inspector Donna Harvey, of Staffordshire Police, said: “All of our resources have worked consistently throughout this challenging pandemic to assist and advise members of the public of the rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We have been extremely pleased with the majority of our communities responses to this and this is reflected in the number of Covid tickets we have issued.”

Some forces have revised their total number of fines while others have issued hundreds.

Notices can be rescinded following a review or cancelled altogether if multiple were issued in error, leading to some areas seeing a fall in the number of fines over time.

The 43 forces serving England and Wales, including British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence, have issued 124,581 fines for alleged breaches of Covid-19-related laws since the pandemic began.

Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, the police chiefs’ lead for pandemic response, said there were still some restrictions – such as the use of face coverings and self-isolation rules – in place for good reason.

He added: “We have observed very high compliance by the public. Officers have very rarely had to use their powers in recent months, only enforcing where there are clear breaches of the rules or people haven’t responded to explanation and encouragement.”

The council insisted that all forces had tried to explain Covid laws to people and only issued tickets when necessary.

Jun Pang, policy and campaigns officer for Liberty, said: “During the pandemic we have seen over-zealous policing and chaotic communications, leaving people confused and fearful of prosecution.”

“The discrepancies in these regional figures show that the restrictions were unclear, leaving it up to local police forces to interpret the law. Clearly, this opened the door to inconsistency and discrimination.”

Prime Minister The PMBoris Johnson has apologised after it emerged a senior aide invited more than 100 members of staff to a “bring your own booze” party in May 2020 during the height of the first lockdown.

West Midlands Police did not want to comment on the figures.

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