Police have fined just 97 Britons a total of £14,100 for refusing to wear a face covering on public transport since July, figures obtained by MailOnline show.
No one was fined above the minimum of £200 from September 24 to the end of October, an FOI request to the National Police Chiefs’ Council found.
The data revealed 43 people were charged £100 for breaking mask rules as restrictions were eased after July – adding up to £5,300.
And after harsher fines were brought in just 44 people were told to pay £200 when they were caught on public transport without coverings – a total of £8,800.
It comes after police last week suspended £10,000 on-the-spot Covid fines and said all flouters should now go to court for means-testing before paying any penalties.
No one was fined above the minimum of £200 from September 24 to the end of October, an FOI request from the National Police Chiefs’ Council found. Pictured, a passenger wore a mask on the bus in London at the start of the pandemic in February
Posters on the Tube, trains and buses warn passengers face fines of up to £6,400 for refusing to wear a mask.
A system brought in on September 24 saw fines double from £200 up to the maximum amount after the sixth fine is issued.
It means a person could be fined £6,200 if found without a mask every day in the course of one working week.
Senior assistant general secretary of the RMT union Mick Lynch said he was ‘deeply concerned passengers are still refusing to follow the basic rules’.
He said: ‘Not only does that put staff and other passengers at risk but it creates a potential confrontation point at a time when everyone needs to be co-operating.
‘Enforcement has to be a matter for the British Transport Police and they need to be provided with the resources required to deliver it.’
Face coverings were made compulsory on public transport from June 15 in England and June 27 in Wales.
A system brought in on September 24 sees fines doubled from £200 up to £6,400 after the sixth fine is issued. It means one passenger could be fined £6,200 if found without a mask every day in the course of one working week. Pictured, the Jubilee Line on June 15
But they do not have to be worn if a person falls under one of the exemptions – including if it would cause ‘severe distress’.
A note on the Government’s guidance page reads: ‘If you do not wear a face covering in these settings [on public transport] you will be breaking the law and could be fined.
‘The fine for a first offence is £200, or £100 if you pay the fine within 14 days.
‘Repeat offenders receiving fines either on public transport or in an indoor place will have their fines doubled on each subsequent offence up to a maximum value of £6,400.
‘After the first offence, there will be no discount. As an example, receiving a second fine will amount to £400 and a third fine will be £800. A sixth fine and all subsequent fines will be £6,400.’
It was previously reported 38 fines were issued to public transport passengers for not wearing an appropriate face covering between March 27 to August 17.
This was despite claims from the Transport Secretary that one-in-ten passengers were breaking the rules.
Masks or face coverings were made compulsory on public transport from June 15 in England and June 27 in Wales. Pictured, Waterloo station in London in June
Posters on the Tube, trains and buses warn passengers fines for refusing to wear a mask can go up to £6,400 for each offence
Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter in August the face covering compliance rates on public transport was 90 per cent, with British Transport Police saying this has since risen to around 97 per cent.
He said BTP and Transport for London figures showed 285 passengers were issued with penalty notices for non-compliance.
Meanwhile 6,275 were asked to leave the transport network and 80,294 were reminded of the rules.
A BTP spokesman said FPNs were ‘a last resort’, adding that people have been arrested ‘in a few cases’.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt said in August: ‘Coronavirus is still a real and deadly threat.
‘The restrictions across the UK are in place to limit the spread of the virus and save lives.
NPCC data revealed 43 Brits were charged £100 for breaking mask rules as restrictions were eased in July to September 24, adding up to a total of £5,300. Pictured, Leeds railway station in June
‘Large gatherings both indoors and outdoors are still unlawful. And it is mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, in shops and in some other enclosed spaces. Other local restrictions apply in some parts of the country.
‘We all have a role to play limiting the spread of this deadly virus so familiarise yourself with public health measures in place locally.’
He also urged people to continue to be ‘socially responsible’ as restrictions are eased, with people who organise unlawful gatherings still facing fines up to £10,000.
Last week the Government’s policing minister was asked to provide clarification after the issuing of £10,000 ‘super-fines’ for lockdown rule-breakers was suspended.
West Midlands Police’s chief constable said the force stopped handing out the fines after concerns were raised about potential inequality between those who pay up within 28 days and those who challenge the notices in court.
When fines go to court they are means-tested, meaning the recipient’s ability to pay is taken into account.
Police data showed a total of 18,683 notices were handed out in England and Wales between March 27 and August 17, although some were for more than one reason
Labour’s West Midlands regional police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said the move had come about following advice being issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
He wrote to policing minister Kit Malthouse for a ‘rapid response’, claiming the Government had failed to provide the police with ‘workable Covid legislation’.
Nottinghamshire’s Labour police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping said he was ‘surprised at the guidance from the NPCC’, having received a written commendation from Home Secretary Priti Patel for being the first force to issue a super-fine.
Mr Jamieson said he also found the situation ‘deeply embarrassing’ personally, having himself been an ‘enthusiastic’ supporter of the introduction of tough rules.
But gym owners embraced the ‘brilliant’ news and claimed it ‘validates’ them trying to stay open and shows ‘what the government has been doing has been ridiculous’.
Explaining the decision at a meeting of the West Midlands strategic policing and crime board last Tuesday, the force’s chief constable David Thompson called it ‘unfortunate’ while adding alleged rule-breakers would get a court summons instead.
Passengers wearing face masks at Leeds railway station as face coverings became mandatory on public transport in England in June
The force has already issued 13 of the fines, reserved for the most serious social-distancing breaches.
Mr Thompson, who is also a vice-chairman of the NPCC and its lead on finance matters, said: ‘I think it’s unfortunate.
WHAT ARE THE EXEMPTIONS TO WEARING FACE COVERINGS?
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:
- If you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering;
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress;
- If you are travelling with, or providing help to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate;
- If you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you;
- If you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others;
- If you need to eat, drink, or take medication on public transport;
- If you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard in other situations set out in further government face covering guidance.
‘It is unhelpful this issue has arisen, but actually there is still legislation. The point I would make to the public is we will carry on enforcing this area of the law.
‘The difference is it won’t be a ticket, it will be through a summons.’
Mr Thompson, who said the force had also been ‘a very strong supporter’ of the tough measures, was asked to shed light on the suspension by the commissioner during the meeting.
He said the £10,000 amount was ‘unusual’ for a fixed penalty notice (FPN), and it was the large fine amount where a concern had arisen.
Mr Thompson said: ‘The issue is – last week – the fixed penalty notice was suspended and that is because of the debate over the means by which the person can meet the cost of that fine would normally be assessed by a court.
‘The level (of fine) is so high there is a concern emerging that actually levying through a fixed penalty is problematic.
‘So the force has moved to a position where we will report people for a summons for this particular offence and they’ll go to court through that route.’
He added the force had employed a ‘very tight policy’ around issuing the super-fines, ‘because we have been very conscious a £10,000 levied fine is substantial’.
‘We have never issued tickets where we don’t have a considerable amount of evidence,’ he added.
Mr Jamieson also asked what the situation was for those fined who had already paid, asking ‘if they will be getting a rebate’ or ‘go to court retrospectively’, and those who had not yet paid.
However, the chief constable was unable to answer those queries.
The commissioner said: ‘The fact we were enthusiastic about helping the Government in enforcing the Covid legislation I have to say for myself – and I have been supporting it as well – is deeply embarrassing now that we have found that the legislation has been found wanting.
‘It hasn’t been properly thought-through.
‘It has led to what I consider to be a deeply embarrassing situation and I think has in some way actually undermined some of the work our excellent officers are doing.’
He added: ‘I have written to the policing minister expressing my extreme anger this legislation wasn’t properly thought-through and led us into the position we were in today.’
The chiefs’ warning: Open letter promising to crackdown on those flouting Covid rules
As the Police Chiefs responsible for the North West we have seen first-hand the misery the pandemic has caused, but we have also seen great support from the majority of our communities.
We have tried to ensure we have maintained the principle of policing with consent, that sets apart policing in this country from other parts of the world.
Along with police forces nationally, we have taken a very measured approach to enforcement from the start of the pandemic, recognising the restrictions placed on all our lives were unprecedented.
We used the 4E’s model of Engage, Explain, Encourage and only as a last resort Enforce, in relation to issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for breaching the Coronavirus legislation.
Sadly we have seen a minority right across the North West who seem incapable of demonstrating any civic responsibility and complying with the regulations.
We know from focus groups and regional insight work the majority of the public would wish to see the Police Service taking a consistent and robust approach to enforcement.
Since local restrictions have been necessary across large parts of the North West we have taken a firmer stance on enforcing the restrictions, moving more quickly to issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for those deliberately flouting the law and putting lives at risk.
As we head into further significant restrictions from 00.01 on Thursday 5 November 2020 we wanted to give these collective messages:
To the majority of our communities who have tried so hard to comply with restrictions, please carry on.
We know how hard this is, but we need to maintain that shared purpose we had in the first lockdown to defeat the virus and, ultimately, save lives.
To the minority who feel the restrictions don’t apply to them be prepared to face the consequences of greater levels of enforcement.
We will collectively target those who flout the restrictions, particularly those organising large gatherings and music events, repeatedly holding parties or deliberately causing harm to our communities by not following the restrictions, such as self-isolating where necessary.
Where we have issued Fixed Penalty notices a significant proportion of recipients think they can ignore them.
We are therefore seeking support from Government and the Judiciary to consider how we bring these people to justice rapidly.
Let us all do everything we can to get through this most awful of times and prevent any further suffering across the North West.
Yours sincerely, Darren Martland, Chief Constable Cheshire Constabulary; Michelle Skeer, Chief Constable, Cumbria Constabulary; Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable Greater Manchester Police; Andy Rhodes, Chief Constable Lancashire Constabulary; Andy Cooke Chief Constable Merseyside Police