Derbyshire Police have handed out around 900 fines for Covid breaches since the start of the pandemic.
Of these, five are for the most serious breaches including illegal raves and house parties, which carried fines of £10,000 each.
Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has said that “constant changes to the Coronavirus legislation, and the significant disparities between this legislation and guidance, remain a continual challenge”.
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.
Mr Dhindsa said: “Fixed-penalty notices have been 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 stated to issue fixed-penalty notices in March 2020.
“It is important to note, in the overwhelming majority of cases, incidents are being dealt with appropriately and officers are using their discretion and professional judgement, in the correct way.”
A few weeks ago, official statistics showed Derbyshire police had issued 301 fines for Covid breaches in the first nine months of the pandemic – a figure which now appears to have tripled, after two months.
In January police had appeared to insinuate the total number of fines was now far higher, saying at the time: “The figures quoted in this release are a snapshot of 2020 and are clearly during a time prior to the current situation the country finds itself in where stricter rules are in place.”
It says officers have been using and continue to use the four E’s approach (explain, engage, encourage, enforce) with enforcement being a “last resort for the most serious and blatant breaches of the regulations”.
Mr Dhindsa said that there are currently 92 police incidents per day linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, down from 115 per day in the first wave.
However, he says: “It must be noted that the current national lockdown is less stringent in terms of legislation, with many more people able to legitimately travel as a result of being classed as a key worker.”
He says police responses to Covid breaches accounts for around nine per cent of the force’s entire workload, the same amount linked to mental health and above that linked to domestic abuse (seven per cent).
Mr Dhindsa has revealed that there have been more than 250 case of Covid in the police force, with spikes in October, December and January in line with community infection rates.
Current around nine per cent of the force is off with sickness absence or self-isolation requirements linked to Covid – below 20 per cent in March 2020, largely propelled by shielding.
He said officers “have been asked to face those who have sought to use the threat of Covid-19 as a weapon and have been coughed on and spat at”.
Mr Dhindsa, alongside Derbyshire Chief Constable Rachel Swann, is calling for police officers to be offered Covid-19 vaccines urgently.
He said this “will help prevent the transmission of the virus in the community, from police officers and staff conducting their essential roles, and also help to ensure that we can continue to provide an excellent service to the people and communities of Derbyshire”.