Coronavirus: Basic fines for breaching lockdown to rise to £100 with maximum penalty of £3,200
The basic fine for breaching the government’s coronavirus lockdown rules will rise from £60 to £100 from Wednesday.
On Sunday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a range of new measures to ease the UK out of its COVID-19 lockdown.
However, his announcement of the government’s measures was criticised by scientists, opposition politicians and workers’ unions, who called it confusing.
The government was left scrambling on Monday to bring some kind of clarity to the new measures. A 50-page document outlining the easing of restrictions was published on Monday.
From Wednesday, people will be able to meet one person from another household in a park as long as they stay two metres apart.
However, fines will be raised for breaching the regulations, although one law expert called the increase a “red herring”.
While fines will be increased to £100, the first fine will be halved to £50 if paid within 14 days, the Home Office said.
Fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
Existing legislation known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 will be updated from Wednesday to reflect the changes coming into force.
It is not yet clear if the same changes to fines will be adopted in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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However, lawyer and writer David Allen Green said that the government’s rules were not enshrined in law, meaning it had always been “perfectly legal” to go out for unlimited exercise during lockdown.
“The increased fines are a red herring - increased clarity and tighter drafting are the solution - not adding to the fine amounts,” he wrote on Twitter.
Going out for unlimited exercise, which was perfectly legal already in England under the letter of the coronavirus regulations, will continue to be legal
— David Allen Green (@davidallengreen) May 10, 2020
The body that represents rank-and-file police officers warned the relaxed lockdown guidance still risks being a set of "loose rules that are left open to interpretation" and is difficult to implement.
John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "What we need from the prime minister and the government now is clear and unambiguous messaging and guidance, explaining what exactly is expected of the public, so that my colleagues can do their level best to police it.
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"Police officers will continue to do their best, but their work must be based on crystal clear guidance, not loose rules that are left open to interpretation - because that will be grossly unfair on officers whose job is already challenging."
Mr Apter said Johnson's statement came after a week of "mixed messages and the release of some information which, fuelled by media speculation, meant many people acted as though the lockdown had already ended".
He said: "If the message of what is expected of the public is not clear, then it will make the job of policing this legislation almost impossible."
The Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF), which represents police officers in London, criticised the government's pandemic response as "wishy-washy”, amid concerns that the public had begun ignoring lockdown restrictions.
MPF's Ken Marsh told BBC Radio 4: "It's been quite wishy-washy how we've gone about it.
"Had we been very stringent from the off - it is painful, but it's not overly painful in terms of what you're actually being asked to do - then I think we would have a better result now."