ndependent analysis of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) issued by police under the Coronavirus (Covid-19) regulations shows a low overall rate in fines issued nationally with young men receiving the biggest proportion.
It also shows black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) people were issued with an FPN at a rate 1.6 times higher than white people.
The independent report, by the Governmental Statistical Service and commissioned by national policing bodies, shows the majority of fines were issued in Sussex during the peak of lockdown when infection and mortality rates across the UK were high and people were being urged to ‘stay indoors, protect the NHS, save lives’.
In line with national guidance, fines were issued as a last resort and only after officers and PSCOs had engaged, explained and encouraged members of the public to comply with the health regulations.
Sussex was one of a number of forces which saw a relatively high number of non-residents issued with fines, people who had travelled from London, to visit the county’s coastal and beauty spots.
In total, 848 fines were issued in Sussex between 27 March and 25 May – equivalent to fivein 10,000 of the population. This is equivalent to 4.1 people per 10,000 of the resident population.
More than half of these fines (466 or 55%) were to non-Sussex residents who had travelled from London and the home-counties, and some as far away as Exeter, Somerset and Nottingham, to enjoy day-trips, in particular at Brighton Beach and Camber Sands.
The relatively high disparity in ethnicity data can be partly explained in the different between fines issued to residents and non-residents which showed:
382 fines were issued to residents in Sussex and of those 320 (83.8%) were issued to white people, with 59 (15.4%) issued to people identifying as black, Asian or other minority ethnic and 3 (0.79%) unknown.
466 fines were issued to non-residents and of these, 329 (70%) were issued to white people, with 128 (27%) issued to those from a black, Asian or other minority ethnic background.
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable (T/DCC) Julia Chapman said: “In Sussex we have always taken pride in our strong, community-based relationships, working hard to gain the trust and confidence of the public.
“Throughout this pandemic, and in line with national guidance, our officers and PCSOs worked to encourage people to comply with the new health regulations and used enforcement only as a last resort.
“The data shows that the vast majority of fines issued in Sussex, although relatively low overall, were during the peak of the lockdown period when people travelling into the county, many from urban areas, would have been fully aware that it was prohibited.
“The report also notes that those forces with rural and coastal areas, like Sussex, tended to issue higher proportions of fines to non-residents and this is relevant when assessing disparity rates since we know that the BAME population tend to be disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan areas.
“Nevertheless, it does show disparity across gender, age and ethnicity that cannot be fully accounted for and we are particularly conscious of, and sensitive to, the concerns around racism or bias in policing globally.
“We have shared and discussed this information with our independent race advisory group and will further scrutinise this data with them, and other independent community representatives, with a commitment to take action around any learning and ensuring our local communities can be confident that our policing approach is fair.”