Police boss accuses Welsh Government of “timid fudge” over Covid-19 travel fines

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A police boss has accused the Welsh Government of a “timid fudge” over increasing the fines for people flouting coronavirus travel restrictions.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones says it is a big mistake to have a sliding scale of penalties for people travelling without a lawful reason.

People will only be fined the new maximum amount of £1,920 if they are caught breaking the law six times.

But the fine for a first time offence stays at £60 which, according to Mr Jones, is not a sufficient deterrent.

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, has campaigned for the introduction of steeper fines because he’s concerned about the risk of spreading the virus in Wales.

He also conducted an online poll which showed that 91 per cent of the 2,000 people who responded were in favour of bigger fines, with 65 per cent of them opting for a fine of £500.

Mr Jones said: “The issue of fines has been a total shambles from the outset.

“First of all the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, caused consternation and confusion when he decided to go down a different route in easing the lockdown.

“It is now okay for people in England to travel as far as they want to do exercise within in England.

“But the law in Wales has not changed. Here people are not allowed to travel somewhere else for exercise or leisure – they are legally obliged to say within the vicinity of their own homes.

“What makes things even more confusing for people is that the lockdown restriction in Wales are tighter than in England but the fines for breaking them here are smaller than in England. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

“That’s why I and Dafydd Llywelyn, my counterpart in Dyfed Powys, have been campaigning for an increase in the penalties so we can send out a clear message to people that they must obey Welsh law on this so that we can keep our communities safe.

“The Welsh Government had been under increasing pressure to do something but I’m afraid this is a very timid fudge.

“It is crazy that you would have to be caught six times before you risked  being fined the maximum amount of £1,920

“If there is evidence to increase subsequent fines there is evidence to increase the £60 fine for a first offence.

“The First Minister pretends to listen to policing but he hasn’t otherwise he would have increased the £60 to a deterrent level like £500 which a public poll called for.

“We have all seen the result of easing the lockdown in England with people flocking in their thousands to the beaches and beauty spots, making social distancing nigh on impossible.

“The last thing we want is to risk a second wave of this deadly virus.

“We need to give our frontline officers the proper tools to do their job which is difficult at the best of times and I’m afraid the new sliding scale of fines is not going to help them enforce the Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“Unfortunately, many people across the border are oblivious to the differences of approach here in Wales.

“If we don’t have stiffer penalties and a clearer message, we are risking an influx of visitors heading to the mountains and coast of North Wales.

“Keeping people safe is the first priority of the police and I am extremely disappointed that the Welsh Government have not helped our officers in doing such an important job.”

Sliding scale of fines

  Existing fine structure New fine structure
First offence £60 £60
Second offence £120 £120
Third offence £120 £240
Fourth offence £120 £480
Fifth offence £120 £960
Sixth and subsequent offences £120 £1,920