Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended the policing of lockdown breaches across the country, warning that officers “will not hesitate” to take action to safeguard the national recovery effort.
It comes amid concerns that the public are not taking some of the rules as seriously as previous lockdowns, enabling the rapid spread of the virus, while there are criticisms in some areas of the country that police officers are being too quick to issue fines.
Data published by the National Police Chiefs Council shows a total of 367 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued by Lincolnshire Police between March 27 and December 20.
Of these, 237 were issued for breaches of coronavirus laws brought in during the first few months of the pandemic, two were linked to the tiered alert system introduced in October, and 89 to the national lockdown which began in November. Police forces across England and Wales have issued 32,329 FPNs since March, though the NPCC said there had been a downward trend in recent weeks.
The peak occurred during the Easter bank holiday in April, with 3,288 handed out that week.
By contrast, the most recent weekly figures showed 542 tickets were handed out in the week to December 17, compared to 821 in the previous seven days.
Although the NPCC figures do not cover the Christmas and New Year period, Home Secretary Priti Patel said last week that more than 800 fines had been handed out over the previous 14 days.
She also defended the way police have handed out fines for lockdown breaches so far, warning that officers “will not hesitate” to take action.
Ms Patel said: “The vast majority of the public have supported this huge national effort and followed the rules.
“But the tragic number of new cases and deaths this week shows there is still a need for strong enforcement where people are clearly breaking these rules to ensure we safeguard our country’s recovery from this deadly virus.”
Of the fines in Lincolnshire, there were eight for failing to wear a face covering when required, and eight for breaching international travel rules.
Recent incidents included a man from Chesterfield stopped trying to drive around visiting every football ground in the country, and another where a car with people from multiple households not wearing masks was stopped in Grantham claiming they were on their way for a McDonald’s breakfast - two hours before the restaurant was due to open.
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says officers have fined 300 people in 24 hours for examples of breaking the rules such as large parties or protests, although most people are complying.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said enforcement shouldn’t always equal police involvement or a fine being handed out.
But he added: “It is right for officers to be inquisitive about why individuals may be away from home.
“Those who blatantly ignore the regulations should expect to receive a fixed penalty notice, and we’ll target our resources towards those who commit the most serious breaches and put others at risk through their behaviour.”
Preliminary crime figures also published by the NPCC on Friday showed that total crime in England and Wales was down 12 per cent in November last year.
Mr Hewitt said crime remains lower than at the same point in 2019, but that the demand on the police service is significant.