More than half of Suffolk’s covid fines go unpaid within 28 days
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Over 50% of the coronavirus fixed penalty notices issued by Suffolk police went unpaid within 28 days.
Data obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association found that large numbers of fixed penalty notices issued by police forces between March 27 and September 21 were not being paid within 28 days.
In Suffolk, 262 of these notices were issued with 149 not being paid within this period.
In Essex these numbers were slightly lower; of the 240 fines issued up to September 21 only 94 were not paid within 28 days.
Numbers were also obtained for the number of fines rescinded in the same period.
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In Suffolk, 34 of the total 262 fines were rescinded.
In Essex, 28 of the 240 fines issues were rescinded.
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Suffolk police and crime commisioner Tim Passmore said: “In comparison to other force areas, it does appear that Suffolk residents are doing the right thing and sticking to the rules set to protect us from the spread of this terrible virus.
“I absolutely support Suffolk Constabulary’s 4Es approach. By engaging, explaining and encouraging they have kept the number of fixed penalty notices to a minimum, only using enforcement when absolutely necessary.
“I am really disappointed to see so many penalties not paid. That will be up to the courts to pursue and I hope that a stiffer fine will really hit the message home to the irresponsible minority who have no concern for their own health or anyone else’s.”
A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “We have enforced the law as set by the government and parliament. It is only right that fines are then processed in accordance with the law and we therefore encourage people not intending to contest a fine to pay it.
“If any individuals are concerned about why they have received a fine, they can raise it with us within the 28 day payment period. Officers will have recorded their justifications for issuing an FPN, along with providing evidence to support any breaches of the regulations.
“Once a fine is contested or unpaid the case will proceed to court. Police forces review all of these cases to further ensure only those cases that meet the evidential and public interest test are heard in court.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “The vast majority of people in Essex have been doing the right thing and sticking to the Government’s COVID regulations meaning we’ve had to give people fines on relatively few occasions.
“And the majority of those who have been given fines have paid them.
“Where people have not paid them we’ve taken action to address this – five people were dealt with last month for the non-payment of fines while a further 60 will have their cases heard in the coming weeks.
“Our approach has always been to engage with people, explain the regulations, and encourage them to do the right thing and that’s been really successful.
“Since March we’ve had more than 20,000 conversations with the public but had to issue only around 300 fines.
“Where reasoned conversation hasn’t worked or where there are clear and blatant breaches, and it’s necessary and appropriate to do so, we will take enforcement action.”
Elsewhere in the UK, the highest proportion of unpaid fines was in the Cleveland force area, where 72% of fines for the period, 215 out of 298, went unpaid.
It was previously disclosed that about half of fines nationally went unpaid in the 28-day period, although chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Martin Hewitt said this proportion is similar to other fixed-penalty notices.
The total number of fines issued in England and Wales between March 27 and September 21 was 18,912.
People who receive a coronavirus fine can appeal in the first instance to the police force that handed out the penalty, to try to get it withdrawn.