More Covid fines issued in one week than entire second lockdown

Police in Ipswich town centre Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Police in Ipswich town centre - Credit: Archant

Police handed out more fines to Covid rulebreakers in the first week of January than during the entire second lockdown period in Suffolk, it has been revealed.

Officers dished out 60 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) in the seven days to January 10, compared to 44 between November 5 and December 2, and just six in the preceding five months of relaxed restrictions. 

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks shared the numbers at a meeting of the police and crime commissioner's (PCC) accountability and performance panel on Friday.

He said police had taken a "contextualised, pragmatic response" to quick changes in regulations.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

A report on the constabulary's response to the pandemic said officers continued to use the 'four Es' approach of engaging, explaining, educating and enforcing in response to potential breaches.

Mr Megicks said: "Our initial position was to enforce as a last resort. We have now moved that position to enforcing where necessary.

"For the seven days to January 10, we engaged on 126 occasions and issued 60 FPNS. That gives you an indication of where our organisation is using enforcement where necessary – commensurate with the number of calls we're receiving."

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During the first lockdown, between March 23 and when non-essential retailers reopened on June 14, police handed out 288 FPNs. 

Of all 338 FPNs issued between March 23 and the end of the second lockdown, on December 2, 85% were given to males and almost two thirds (63%) to people under the age of 35. 

The majority were issued for contravening restriction of movement (54%) or participating in a gathering in public of more than two people (31%).

Where self-defined ethnicity was recorded, 70% were white British or any other white background, while 8% were Gypsy or Roma, 3% were African or other black, 5% were of mixed ethnicity and 2% were Asian.

Mr Megicks said police continued to monitor numbers and would scrutinise data for any impact in terms of disproportionality.

During combined phases of social restrictions, 6.4% (7,306) of recorded incidents were Covid related, with proportions fluctuating from 15.1% (5,401) during the first lockdown, to just 1.7% (1,111) during the period between lockdowns.

Suffolk police officer wearing mask

During the first lockdown, between March 23 and when non-essential retailers reopened on June 14, police handed out 288 FPNs - Credit: Archant

Overall crime fell 14%, with acquisitive volume crime like vehicle and bicycle theft, shoplifting and other theft falling 38% and robbery falling 47%, but domestic crime increasing 27%.

Other forces have also recorded increases in domestic crime, in part due to people remaining at home under restrictions, said the report.

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Kearton said senior leaders were looking at the increases in detail, and that communication was key to ensuring victims have a voice.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton answered questions from the community at the meeting Pictur

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Kearton  - Credit: Gregg Brown

"We have an increase of 27% but I would say there are many more yet to come forward because they are unable to use a form of communication," she added.

Between the end of February and beginning of December, a total of 170 police officers and 290 staff recorded Covid-19 related absence.

In the same time, 389 officers and 286 staff recorded absence due to other types of sickness.

The percentage of hours lost to sickness absence went up from 4.51% to 4.71% for officers in the last financial year, and from 3.48% to 5.99% for staff.

Mr Megicks said that had since increased to around 9% overall, adding: "We, unfortunately, are not immune to this virus, but through flexible and rapid response, we are making sure there is provision for those who have self-isolated and can work from home."

Meanwhile, a care plan is in place to support a return to work for those who test positive.

An additional 700 laptops have been issued across Norfolk and Suffolk to facilitate home working – costing £30,000.

Between April and August 2020, the amount spent on fuel for pool cars dropped from £40,670 to £14,634, while claims for public transport use decreased by about £7,000, and claims for essential and casual mileage use decreased by about £46,000.

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