More than 2,000 fines have been give by Avon and Somerset Police for breaches of coronavirus-related laws – including six for holding large gatherings.
Figures published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council show 2,160 fixed penalty notices were issued by the force between March 27 2020 and December 19 last year.
Of these, 29 were recorded from May 17 last year, when different households were allowed to mix indoors for the first time following several months of lockdown.
Across England and Wales, 124,581 fines have been issued by the 43 territorial police forces, British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence for alleged breaches of Covid-19-related laws since the pandemic began.
Out of the total number of fines, 377 were for holding a gathering of more than 30 people – with six in Avon and Somerset.
Also in Avon and Somerset, there were eight fines for breaches of face covering regulations and four for breaking self-isolation rules.
In April last year, six people, in their twenties were fined £800 each for organising a party of more than 15 people in Redland.
And in the same evening, eight people were fined £200 when a house party was broken up in Clifton.
What human rights advocacy group Liberty says
In response to the national figures, human rights advocacy group Liberty said communities have been subjected to disproportionate and harmful policing while staff at Number 10 have been “attending drinks parties”.
Jun Pang, policy and campaigns officer at the organisation, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have seen over-zealous policing and chaotic communications, leaving people confused and fearful of prosecution.
“The discrepancies in these regional figures show that the restrictions were unclear, leaving it up to local police forces to interpret the law. Clearly, this opened the door to inconsistency and discrimination.”
The Government has recently come under fire following a series of reports on parties and large gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street while the rest of the UK was under restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already apologised after it emerged his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 members of staff to a “bring your own booze” party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 during the first lockdown.
What National Police Chiefs’ Council says
An NPCC spokesman said all forces have first sought to engage and explain Covid laws to people, and only enforce them when necessary.
Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, NPCC lead for Operation Talla, the police response to the pandemic, said there are still some restrictions – such as the use of face coverings and self-isolation rules – in place for good reason.
He added: “We have observed very high compliance by the public.
“Officers have very rarely had to use their powers in recent months, only enforcing where there are clear breaches of the rules or people haven’t responded to explanation and encouragement.”