40 people risk £10,000 fine by absconding from Birmingham Airport hotel quarantine

A total of 40 people have absconded from quarantine hotels after arriving at Birmingham Airport since February.

Birmingham Airport
Birmingham Airport

Figures were released as part of a paper to the strategic policing and crime board chaired by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster on September 28.

The papers show between February 14 and August 26, 38 people absconded from quarantine in the West Midlands.

But an updated figure of 40 people in relation to the period up to September 28 has now been given by the PCC’s office.

The meeting heard there were a number of reasons why people did this and that they faced “high-level fines” once caught by police.

The Government’s website states anyone breaking quarantine rules can face a fine of up to £10,000.

British and Irish citizens or those who have residence rights in the UK are all who are permitted to travel to the UK if they have been in a red-list country in the last ten days.

Anyone from this group arriving in the UK must quarantine for ten full days in a “managed quarantine hotel” and take Covid tests on or before day two and on or after day eight.

As of July 19, those returning from amber-list countries do not have to quarantine on their return.

Of the 40 people who absconded six were issued a fixed penalty notice (FPN) by West Midlands Police; while eight were issued a FPN by another force and one was issued a court summons by another police force.

In three cases, no further action was taken by another police force – and in 13 cases, no further action was requested by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Four were not eligible for a FPN due to age or lack of capacity; three suspects are still “outstanding/not located”; and data is not held in two cases.

Chief Supt Richard North said it was sometimes “problematic” for people who had been in quarantine after arriving from a red-list country but they were treated as an “absolute priority”.

In answer to a question from victims commissioner Councillor Nicky Brennan, he said: “During the pandemic sometimes we had to make difficult decisions when people had absconded from the hotel.

“What we would do is prioritise those cases, track them down, and they would be issued quite extensive fines.

“On occasions we had to make decisions about the viability of using force to take them back to a non-secure location […].

“We did have individual cases where because they had gone back to a private dwelling where they were self-isolating, actually to expose officers to that and the potential for them to leave the hotel again was problematic.

“So they would be recorded as absconders but ultimately a deterrent was created by virtue of the fact they would receive a high-level fine.

“It isn’t as simple as a normal criminal offence where you would escalate through to custody and then fines and then potentially incarceration in prison, it is about trying to manage and reduce the exposure to the wider community […].”

Speaking on why they absconded, he said: “There’s all sorts of reasons. It is difficult to stay in a hotel in isolation in those circumstances […].

“Sometimes there was a dispute over whether they needed medical attention and that was a problematic area for us.

“So it might be that medical professionals say they didn’t need to go to hospital […] but then they would present further symptoms.”

He added sometimes people disputed whether they should be on the red-list based on where they had been prior to flying home.

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