'Substantial' increase in Covid fines as people turn to house parties, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner says

Families across the Northumbria Police area have been largely ‘very good’ when it comes to following Covid-19 restrictions, according to the force’s commissioner.

But Kim McGuinness told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Thursday, October 15, that greater clarity is needed from the Government so residents can fully understand the restrictions and why they have been introduced, enabling them to make ‘sensible decisions’ during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Ms McGuinness was asked about the level of ‘rule-breaking’ seen across Northumbria, amid reports that parts of the North East could move into Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions; the highest level of rules under the Government’s new system.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday, October 12 that areas in England would be split into three tiers for restrictions – medium, high and very high – depending on the number of cases and the coronavirus infection rate.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said the expectation on police to enforce Covid regulations puts pressure on the force.

The North East currently sits under ‘high’ restrictions in Tier 2 – but there has been speculation this week that parts of the region could move up to the next level, which is currently only in force in the Liverpool city region.

Ms McGuinness said: “What I must say is that people have been, by and large, very good and they have stuck to the rules and made sure that they look after each other and look after themselves.

"But of course there are a number of people who have taken it upon themselves to have house parties and so on and therefore the number of fines that police have given out has gone up substantially.

"But I think it's really important to remember that this isn't about enforcement, what it's actually about is a public health crisis and people need to be aware of the situation locally so they can make sensible decisions."

The police and crime commissioner went on to speak about concerns that a move to Tier 3 would drive people seeking to break the law ‘underground’ as non-food bars and pubs would have to close.

Northumbria Police saw a ‘real reduction’ in crime during the initial stages of the national lockdown, Ms McGuinness said, but the levels are now back up to normal.

There is also an expectation on police to enforce Covid-19 regulations, which puts ‘real pressure’ on officers who are working hard.

When asked if the disputes between politicians nationally and locally gives people an excuse for not following the rules, she added: “I know people want those who are flouting the rules to be dealt with but it's about protecting ourselves from a deadly virus.

"I think that one of the key things that we had again during the major national lockdown was constant communication about the situation in the UK in an understandable and digestible way which helped people know why they were doing this and we simply don't have that anymore.

"I don't think that there's any excuse, but I do think that we need clarity.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive.

We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper.

If you can, please do pick up a copy when you are at the shops.

Thank you for your support.