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Police quash fines for alleged Covid-19 breaches

Friday, March 19th, 2021 12:30pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Derbyshire police have quashed 119 fines for alleged Covid-19 regulation breaches.

Figures released to the Local Democracy Reporting Service show the force has, to date, rescinded 119 Covid fines, out of the more than 1,600 it has issued since the start of the pandemic.

Some of these were rescinded for judicial reasons, others for administrative reasons and a “small percentage” due to evidence issues.

Out of the 1,605 Covid fines issued by the county’s police force up until the start of March, 40 have proceeded to court.

A total of five fines have been contested by those who they were served on, three of which were subsequently rescinded and two progressed to court.

The 119 rescinded fines represent just over seven per cent of all those the force has served.

In a meeting this week, Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, was asked about how many fines had been repealed.

He said: “They are very small in number. There is a process and in this situation, with legislation changing so frequently and then police having to act so quickly after those public statements around legislation there is always room for area on individual cases as they (police officers) try to understand and interpret the rules and regulations.

“We have a process in place where every enforcement is reviewed to see if due process has been followed. There is a built in system to rescind any that have been done inappropriately, and that does work and the numbers are quite small.

“For example, when the two famous ladies in South Derbyshire, the Foremark Reservoir area, got their PR (public relations) credentials, in terms of getting the national media on that, that was reviewed and rescinded.

“At that time, everything in this lockdown was looked at and reviewed and I think there was about 15 that were rescinded in that period.”

In a statement to the LDRS earlier this week, Rachel Swann, Derbyshire’s Police Chief Constable, said: “It is fair to say over the last year we have not got everything right, but I must be clear that this is not through incompetence, a lack of professionalism or a dearth of ability.

“My colleagues were placed in a position that left rules, at times, open to interpretation; this is unsurprising given the pace at which new legislation was being delivered.”

This week, Derbyshire police confirmed that it had stepped up its enforcement activity in recent months – seeing Covid fines rise from 900 to 1,600 in a month – and warned that people gathering in groups, in breach of guidance, were putting the reopening of lockdown “in jeopardy”.

Mr Dhindsa wrote in a report discussed this week by the police and crime panel that: “The constant changes to the Coronavirus legislation, and the significant disparities between this legislation and guidance, remain a continual challenge for my colleagues, the implications of the forthcoming changes that are expected as we exit lockdown remain to be understood.

“All fixed-penalty notices continue to be scrutinised in order to identify cases where they have been issued inappropriately, and in these instances, those affected have received written notification of the withdrawal; this system has been in place since the Constabulary started to issue fixed-penalty notices in March 2020.”

In January, the force reviewed all of its fixed penalty notices issued for Covid breaches after a complaint from two women fined £200 each for meeting up at Foremark Reservoir, just five miles from their respective homes.

The force has been accused of a “heavy handed” approach to fines for Covid-19 breaches and faced criticism early on in the pandemic for its use of a drone compilation video highlighting walkers breaching lockdown in the Peak District.

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