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The home secretary and a senior police officer have revealed that forces across the UK have handed out 45,000 fines for alleged breaches of coronavirus lockdown laws.

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman (NPCC) Martin Hewitt said during a Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Wednesday that “I make no apology” for handing out the massive number of fines. He said: “Since October, we’ve been guiding our officers to move more quickly to issuing a fine where people are clearly breaching regulations, and they’re not listening to us.”

Mr Hewitt added that forces have sent “more officers out on dedicated patrols to take action against the small few who”, he claims, “are letting us all down”.

The figures were revealed after the NPCC recently disclosed that police in England and Wales issued 32,329 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) related to coronavirus regulations between Friday the 27th of March and Monday the 21st of December. In England,  28,744 FPNs were issued, and in Wales, 3,585.

Speaking at the same press conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has been criticised for her support for draconian lockdown culture, said: “Our police officers are now moving more quickly to issue the fines where people are clearly breaching coronavirus regulations.”

“So my message today to anyone refusing to do the right thing is simple: if you do not play your part, our selfless police officers who are out there risking their own lives every day to keep us safe, they will enforce the regulations. I will back them to do so to protect our NHS and to save lives,” Ms Patel added.

On Tuesday, Welsh media reported that officers fined a woman and her husband £60 for taking a 20-minute drive to visit her 96-year-old mother who lives in a care home.

“I feel like I’m living in some sort of dystopian novel after what happened,” Carol Richards said.

Mrs Richards said she will challenge the penalty and file a report with the Police Complaints Commissioner.

“It’s not about the 60 quid, it’s about the principle and I want to go on seeing my mother,” she said, adding that it was important she saw her ageing parent, because “she could be dead next month”.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) revealed earlier this month that nearly 350 people had been wrongly charged or convicted under Britain’s coronavirus laws.

International human rights law expert Kirsty Brimelow, QC, said in September 2020 that while such wrongful convictions are disturbing, her “real concern” was for “those cases that have no safeguards and cannot be reviewed”, notably with FPNs “where there is no appeals process”.

“Without safeguards, there is a much higher likelihood that such fines are being issued wrongly. All people who face these fines can do is pay or take their chances in court, and if they lose in court they end up with a criminal conviction,” Ms Brimelow had said.

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