Police Resume Hefty On-the-Spot Fines for Large Gatherings in England

November 18, 2020 Updated: November 18, 2020

Police have returned to handing out on-the-spot £10,000 ($13,280) fines for large gatherings in England, after suspending them over concerns about fairness and people’s ability to pay.

Since Friday, police have been told to take all such cases through the courts, where magistrates can tailor the fines to fit people’s circumstances.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said that the suspension of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for breaching the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus curbs was temporary, and has now been lifted.

“Following discussions with the government, the issue we flagged last Friday has been fully addressed, and forces are advised that they can resume issuing £10,000 FPNs where appropriate,” an NPCC spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.

“People found to be in breach of the regulations relating to gatherings of over 30 people will be made fully aware of their options when faced with a £10K FPN, to ensure fairness.”

Those options include refusing to pay and instead challenging the case in court—where even if found guilty, they may be allowed to pay a much lower fine after means-testing.

There had been concerns that some people were paying the fine on-the-spot without knowing that by challenging in court, they might end up paying much less.

FPNs aim to speed up and simplify the punitive process for minor offences. They can be directly meted out by police if they reasonably believe an offence has been committed, without the need to go through a court.

Epoch Times Photo
Police officers stand wearing masks as a precaution against the transmission of the CCP virus, in London on Sept. 9, 2020. (Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

However, people do have the option to refuse to pay the fine and instead defend the case in court.

Police can also choose to direct the cases through the courts.

“The option of summons will remain available to officers, as it always has been, should the unique circumstances of a case mean that this is the most appropriate course of action,” the NPCC spokesperson said. “However, the vast majority of cases can be dealt with by way of FPN.”

The government has introduced various penalties for breaches of COVID-19 rules, far higher than typical fines, including one category with a £10,000 “super-fine” for gatherings of over 30 people.

Police had said they had wanted tougher penalties after CCP virus curbs on pubs and parties sparked illegal raves and large parties.

The suspension of the fines—which appeared to water down the government’s approach—came to light during a meeting with the West Midlands police and crime commissioner.

The commissioner for the region, David Jamieson, said that the initial legislation hadn’t been “properly thought through.”

In England, breaching most COVID-19 rules carries a £100 fine for the first offence, which is halved to £50 if paid within 14 days. The fine doubles on repeat offences up to a maximum of £3,200.

However, since Sept. 28 breaking self-isolation rules has carried a £1,000 fine, which can increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences “and for the most egregious breaches.”

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