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Monday, May 18, 2020

Public back police boss's call for tougher coronavirus fines

* North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.

A police boss is calling on the Welsh Government to do a U-turn and increase fines for breaking coronavirus travel restrictions after an opinion poll came out overwhelmingly in favour of the idea.

More than 90 per cent of people who took part in the survey conducted by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones backed his call for a big hike in the penalty for flouting the rules.

Last week the Welsh Government rejected calls by Mr Jones and Dafydd Llywelyn, his counterpart in Dyfed Powys, to introduce heavier fines.

The row came to a head after Prime Minister Boris Johnson eased the travel restrictions in England where people are now allowed to travel to take exercise.

It led to fears of an influx of people into Wales where the lockdown remains in place and where people can only take exercise in the vicinity of their own homes.

Mr Jones launched the poll “out of frustration” after seeing a tweet from a North Wales Police officer which said: “I had one guy from Liverpool laugh at me and said me that a £30 fine is only like a parking ticket…What else can I say.”

The commissioner retweeted it and tagged in First Minister, saying: “Hey @MarkDrakeford @fmwales you want evidence to increase fines, how about this from a North Wales Police officer?”

The strength of feeling about the issue was demonstrated by the fact that his retweet gained 50,000 impressions.

Fines for people who breach the travel restrictions start at £60 and go up to £120 for repeat offenders, although the amount can be reduced to £30 if the penalty is paid within 14 days.

Around 2,000 people took part in the poll and 91 per cent of them were in favour on increasing the penalty, with 65 per cent of them opting for a fine of £500.

Another 15 per cent wanted the fine to increase to £250 while 11 per cent of respondents recommended a fine of £100.

Only nine per cent of people who participated didn’t want any increase.

According to Mr Jones, a former police inspector, the poll had demonstrated clearly that the Welsh Government was “out of step with the mood of the Welsh people”.

He said: “The tweet from the frustrated police officer hit the nail on the head because Welsh police forces are being denied the tools they need to do the job.

“What this survey shows is that the Welsh Government are not listening to their own people and are ignoring the needs of police officers on ground.

“I will be drawing the attention of the Welsh Government to the findings of the survey and I will also be raising this matter at a meeting of the four police and crime commissioners and the four chief constables in Wales.

“If people know they stand to be fined up to £500 for travelling to Wales, they are not going to come.

“We need a realistic deterrent to reduce the number of people coming to Wales for leisure and exercise purposes which is not allowed under Welsh law.

“Increased penalties will ensure we have the capacity to deal with anybody who continue to flout the restrictions.

“Our priority as police forces is to protect life and that’s the bottom line for me.

“What’s crazy is that the restrictions in Wales are tighter than England but the penalties in England are greater. It doesn’t make any sense.”

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