Police Scotland issue 25 penalties over weekend after enforcement powers granted
Police Scotland issued 25 fixed penalty notices over the weekend to people flouting the regulations introduced in a bid to stop people from spreading coronavirus in public places.
The new powers in the Coronavirus Act make it a criminal offence to flout the public health guidance on social distancing to prevent Covid-19.
On-the-spot fines of £30 can be issued to people who breach social distancing measures, rising to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days and capped at £960 for repeat offenders.
Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that, despite the small number of cases where fines were issued, the vast majority of the public were complying with the new regulations.
Mr Graham said: “We’ve had high-visibility patrols right across the country since we were given these enforcement powers and it’s clear that the vast majority of people are complying with the measures that are in place.
“We issued 25 fixed penalty notices across Scotland over the course of Saturday and Sunday and I think that is strong evidence of how these extraordinary powers have had an impact in such a short space of time with communities across Scotland.
“We’ve also received a significant number of calls, firstly from people asking how do we comply with these regulations and, secondly, reporting people they felt were breaching them.
“We responded to those calls to make sure we could again explain why it was important, encourage people to comply with them, and in those very small number of occasions use the enforcement powers that we’ve got where that very small minority of people just refuse to comply with what is required.
“There was broadly three situations that happened in. We had a number of house parties still going on; we were called to attend, and people refused to break those up, then notices could be issued.
“We had groups of people outside and again, if people have refused to comply, that was some of the circumstances, and in a very small number of cases we issued fixed penalty notices to businesses that were still operating where it was not appropriate that they should continue to given the regulations that are in place.”
Mr Graham’s comments come after images on social media showed dozens of cars at Strathclyde Country Park in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, on Sunday.
Although the guidelines allow people to take a walk as a form of exercise each day, Mr Graham said the public were still getting used to what the measures mean for daily life.
He added: “We’re working with local authorities and other bodies that run open spaces. People have been encouraged to go out and exercise, it’s very clear it’s taking a little bit of time for people to work out how this is going to operate.
“It’s such a significant change in everybody’s lives. This was made very clear last week by the Chief Constable – we’re going to do this through policing in Scotland as we always do.
“Engaging with communities, policing by consent and making sure that we do that in a courteous and respectful manner to keep the population safe.
“Of course everybody’s getting to grips with these changes that have come in so quickly.
“If there are repeated instances then the penalties rise very quickly and we’ll see if that has an impact.
“And of course, if people refuse to comply once they’ve been issued with a penalty notice, then a criminal offence has been committed and people can be arrested.”