Posted: Thu 21st May 2020

Updated: Thu 21st May

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner accuses Welsh Government of “timid fudge” over Covid-19 travel fines

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, May 21st, 2020

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has accused the Welsh Government of a “timid fudge” over increasing the fines for people flouting coronavirus travel restrictions.

The increased in fines, announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford on Wednesday, are being introduced ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

The move follows a request from the four police forces in Wales and the Police and Crime Commissioners for increased penalties to help deter people from repeatedly breaching the stay-at-home regulations.

Under the existing fines structure, a £60 fine can be imposed for first offence rising to £120 for a second and subsequent offences.

This will now be replaced from Friday with the new structure which will see fines double for every offence – rising from £60 to £120 to £1,920 for the sixth offence.

But the fine for a first time offence stays at £60 which, according to Mr Jones, is not a sufficient deterrent.

Arfon Jones has been campaigning for the introduction of steeper fines, he also conducted an online poll which showed that 91 per cent of the 2,000 people who responded were in favour of bigger fines, with 65 per cent of them opting for a fine of £500.

Mr Jones said: “The issue of fines has been a total shambles from the outset.

First of all the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, caused consternation and confusion when he decided to go down a different route in easing the lockdown.

It is now okay for people in England to travel as far as they want to do exercise within in England.

But the law in Wales has not changed. Here people are not allowed to travel somewhere else for exercise or leisure – they are legally obliged to say within the vicinity of their own homes.”

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “It’s even more confusing for people because lockdown restriction in Wales are tighter than in England but the fines for breaking them here are smaller than in England. 

The Welsh Government had been under increasing pressure to do something but I’m afraid this is a very timid fudge.

It is crazy that you would have to be caught six times before you risked being fined the maximum amount of £1,920

If there is evidence to increase subsequent fines there is evidence to increase the £60 fine for a first offence.

We need to give our frontline officers the proper tools to do their job which is difficult at the best of times and I’m afraid the new sliding scale of fines is not going to help them enforce the Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Unfortunately, many people across the border are oblivious to the differences of approach here in Wales.”

Announcing the changes to the fines structure yesterday, First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “I am very grateful to the chief constables and our Police and Crime Commissioners for all the work they have done to keep Wales safe throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The police have adopted a ‘4Es’ approach to the regulations – they have engaged people, explained what they need to do and encouraged them to comply.

But when people haven’t responded, they have used their powers to enforce the regulations.

Fines are a last resort in the enforcement of the regulations which keep us all safe.

The evidence from the chief constables and Police and Crime Commissioners shows we need a stronger fines structure to deter that small minority of people who persistently fail to keep to the rules.”

More than 1,300 fixed penalty notices have been issued since the lockdown restrictions were introduced at the end of March.

The First Minister added: “As we approach the bank holiday weekend, we continue to ask people to stay at home to protect themselves and their loved ones from coronavirus. If they are exercising – please stay safe and stay local.”

New regulations to increase the fines will be laid in the Senedd today,  Thursday May 21 and will come into force on Friday.

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