MORE than 1,100 Covid fines have been issued by Dorset Police since the pandemic began, new figures show.

Statistics released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council show the county force issued 1,142 fixed penalty notices for breaches of the coronavirus regulations between March 27, 2020, and February 14 this year.

They included two fines for flouting face covering rules and two breaches of business-related regulations.

One person was issued with a £10,000 fine for holding a gathering of more than 30 people in the county.

The majority of fines issued by Dorset Police, 972 (85 per cent), related to breaches of lockdown regulations, with 138 penalty notices issued for breaches of during tier restrictions and 27 for local Covid-19 alert level regulation rulebreakers.

No fixed penalty notices have been issued by Dorset Police in relation to international travel regulations.

As reported by the Daily Echo, Dorset has seen a wide range of breaches during the national lockdowns from parties and road trips to gathering for a barbecue in Bournemouth and going spear fishing.

Nationally, a total of 68,952 fixed penalty notices were issued by forces, with 63,201 in England and 5,751 in Wales.

Across 41 forces in England and Wales, Dorset Police had issued the 23rd most fixed penalty notices.

The NPCC said steep rises in the number of tickets handed out following the introduction of Tier 4 restrictions before Christmas and the latest national lockdown in England on January 4 reflected a move towards quicker enforcement by police.

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: "Eleven months on and back into a national lockdown, the rules are really clear and so it is frustrating that we still have a small number of completely defiant and irresponsible people who have no regard for the safety of themselves or others."

Dorset Police has previously revealed that the majority of fines its officers have issued during the lockdowns have been to people from outside the county.

View from Dorset Police

Dorset Police assistant chief constable Sam de Reya said throughout the pandemic officers and staff have adopted the first three stages of the 4Es approach - engaging, explaining and encouraging people to follow the rules and act responsibly to keep people safe.

"We have moved to enforcement and issued FPNs to people who have blatantly flouted the regulations, which have been in place to stop the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives," said ACC de Reya.

Changing situation

Following the Prime Minister's unveiling of the lockdown easing 'roadmap' for the months ahead, police are likley to have to enforce and apply new regulations and handle new guidance through each step of the process.

Throughout the pandemic forces have had to put plans in place quickly and be adaptable.

ACC de Reya said everyone had a responsibility to stick to the restrictions to ensure progress can be made without having to take a step back.

Bournemouth Echo: Dorset Police assistant chief constable Sam de ReyaDorset Police assistant chief constable Sam de Reya

No matter how challenging it could be, she said it is "really important" for everyone to follow the rules over the next few months.

"The Government has now announced their roadmap for how lockdown restrictions will be gradually lifted this summer and I know this news will be very much welcomed by both businesses and our communities," said ACC de Reya.

“While we wait for the updated legislation from the Government and guidance from the NPCC in relation to the gradual lifting of lockdown, we will continue to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules. If blatant breaches take place we will move to enforcement.

Visitors on the horizon

Attention is already turning to the summer months with a predicted influx of visitors to the county.

Following the packed scenes on Bournemouth's beaches last year, which led to the declaration of a major incident, authorities are already working on plans to handle the situation this summer.

Bournemouth Echo: Packed Bournemouth beaches in June 2020Packed Bournemouth beaches in June 2020

ACC de Reya said: “We fully expect the numbers of people travelling into Dorset this summer for a staycation to be higher than ever before and I would like to reassure our communities that we are committed to leading policing operations to deal with the extra demand summer will bring.

"This will involve working proactively with our partners to coordinate and strengthen our plans.

“We want the county open and welcoming visitors so our businesses, that rely heavily on tourism, can thrive and we get the economy moving.

"However, encouraging people to visit Dorset must not be at the expense of people’s health. Our communities should feel reassured that the huge amount of planning already underway should allow people to travel into Dorset and enjoy what the county has to offer, while keeping both residents and visitors safe.”