Surrey Police is urging the public to continue to adhere to government guidelines, as number of coronavirus fines issued is published.
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Figures released by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) show a total of 205 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been issued in the county between 00.01hrs on 27 March and 00.01hrs on 13 April.
Of those FPNs, 114 were issued over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend (10-13 April).
Nationally, a total of 3,203 have been issued across all 40 forces in England during this time.
Surrey Police Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said this figure is a tiny proportion when compared to the significant number of people officers have engaged with.
“Our approach has been, and remains, to encourage and support people to make the right choices to comply with the restrictions in place, and to only use enforcement as a last resort. Thankfully, the vast majority of people are fully complying with the guidance and we thank them for helping to stop the spread of the virus.
“Our officers and PSCOs are engaging with literally thousands of people every day. While most have adhered to our advice and have had genuine reasons for being outdoors, a very small minority of people have refused to cooperate.
“Notably, a significant proportion of fines were issued to people who had travelled into the county during the Bank Holiday weekend to visit local beauty spots, which clearly goes against advice and we will be working to further deter this.”
Incidents where enforcement action has had to be taken include:
Officers attended the A30 London Road in Virginia Water on Sunday 5 April, to carry out parking enforcement due to complaints about illegal parking on the clearway. A number of parking tickets incurring a £30 fine were issued. Several people were spoken to who had driven to the location from as far away as Brentford and Weybridge just to exercise.
Officers were also called following reports of more than 40 cars parked up at the Box Hill beauty spot, near Dorking, as people disregarded government instructions to stay local for their exercise on Sunday 5 April. Scores of people were discovered sun-bathing by police officers and PCSOs. A passing National Police Air Service helicopter on another call prompted quite a few to leave, but police on the ground still had to engage with a significant number and persuade them to leave. Cars continued to arrive throughout the afternoon and officers were also alerted to a similar situation at Epsom Downs.
Over the weekend (3-5 April), officers also spoke to two men driving remote control cars in a park who had driven to the location and were not exercising; four teenagers (from two households), who had gone to the park together; and eight people having a mini street party in a neighbour’s front garden.
On Sunday 5 April officers had to take enforcement action as a last resort in Addlestone following a house party which ignored the government’s social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of Covid-19. A number of people at the property did not live there and had travelled from outside of the county to attend. Four people who initially refused to leave were issued with fines under the powers given to police officers in the Coronavirus Act.
On Wednesday 8 April officers spoke with a family who had driven from Lewes to pick up plants from Sutton. Their vehicle then broke down on a busy main road. Officers also spoke with two people who had driven from Staines to Reigate hill to fly a model airplane.
A drone was deployed to break up a group of 30 people not observing social distancing in Walton-on-Thames on Friday 10 April. This method of communicating, without physically putting officers at additional risk by approaching them, was effective and the group left without officers having to take further action.
On Friday 10 April, officers were called to Box Hill, a popular Surrey beauty spot, after receiving reports of a number of cyclists ignoring road closures and social distancing restrictions. Officers intervened with riders cycling along the Zig Zag Road before re-establishing road closures.
On Saturday 11 April officers responded to concerns about motorcyclists on the A24 and engaged with cyclists ignoring give way signs on the A24 at West Humble.Over the Bank Holiday weekend one group who had travelled from Chiswick stated that they were “just being cheeky” when questioned on why they had taken the unnecessary journey.
In instances where FPNs have been issued individuals have been given a £60 on-the-spot fine (reduced to £30 if paid within 30 days).
The Chief Constable added: “This is new legislation and we are learning every day. Our officers and PSCOs are being asked to use their professional judgement and common sense around the legislation which does not cater for the range of complex lives that people lead.
“We will only use the new powers when we need them, and will continue to police by consent where we can and with the trust and help of our local communities.
“Overwhelmingly, people are making the right choices and doing the right thing to support the NHS and help prevent the spread of the virus in Surrey.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, David Munro said: “I’m pleased that the vast majority of Surrey residents have been following the government guidance and I want to thank them all for their continued co-operation in what are testing times for us all. I fully support the Chief Constable’s approach to work with our communities, apply common sense, and take enforcement action only where it’s absolutely necessary.
“Our police officers and staff are working around the clock with our partner agencies across the county to do to everything we can to ensure we keep people safe during this pandemic and the small minority of people flouting the restrictions are putting everyone at risk.
“A significant number of those issued with fines are not Surrey residents and have travelled into the county from elsewhere to visit beauty spots. The message to those people thinking of coming to Surrey for such reasons is simple - please stay away and help prevent the spread of this virus.”
Under government regulations, you should only leave the house for very limited purposes:
Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home