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Just five of the £10,000 Covid fines issued last year have actually been paid

Latest figures show how many fines have actually been paid…

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gmpolice & gangster_times / Twitter

Latest figures suggest only a fraction of the £10,000 lockdown fines issued last year have actually been paid, with dozens more being challenged or ignored.

Between August and December 20th last year, police in England issued 196 of the fines with just two handed out in Wales. The fines were given to organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people including raves, parties and protests.

Of those 196 fines issued in England, only five have been paid according to snapshot figures. 53 are being formally contested, 42 have been ignored and 96 still have time left to pay in the 28-day payment period.

The data from Acro the criminal records office was given to the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). Figures released late in the month by the PA news agency via Acro showed that 76 of the 198 fines issued in England and Wales were being contested.

GMP

Legal and policy officer for Big Brother Watch, Madeleine Stone, called unpaid lockdown fines ‘a prosecution crisis waiting to happen’.

She said: “These life-changing fines are a draconian and ineffective response to the pandemic.”

Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: “The creation of £10,000 fines was completely disproportionate and only serves to punish people financially at a time of great economic uncertainty.

“For many people this fine is impossible to pay, and so this tactic just widens the number of people at risk of being criminalised.”

Human rights barrister, Kirsty Brimelow QC said: “The majority of people cannot afford to pay a £10,000 fine. People are being set up to fail by the issuing of these notices.”

Police warned the government in November over the super-fines, as those who paid within the 28 day period could face a larger bill than those who fought the penalty in court. 

Initially, officers were told to stop issuing penalties, however it was later agreed that those issued with a £10,000 fine were to be made fully aware of their right to fight it in court. 

Senior officers are said to be not surprised by the proportion of fines being contested due to the sheer size of the fine.

An NPCC spokesperson said: “Police use a 4Es approach of engaging with the public, explaining the rules, and encouraging compliance with them.

“Large gatherings should not be happening in the current circumstances and the regulations in place for everyone’s safety are absolutely clear on that.

“Those who organise large gatherings know they are breaking the law and putting others at risk.

“Officers will only issue a fine as a last resort, but will not waste time with endless encouragement where there is a clear and egregious breach of the rules, such as for these large gatherings.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The majority of the public are continuing to play their part to control this terrible virus by staying at home – it is shameful that a small minority continue to flout the law and it’s right we have a strong deterrent for those who put us at risk by ignoring the rules.

“Those who refuse to pay fixed penalty notices may face court action and a possible criminal record.

“We have given police the appropriate guidance to ensure they can charge offences correctly, and rigorously enforce the law, which is why we have made £60 million of extra funding available to police and local authorities.”

Latest figures show that a total of 250 fines were issued in England and Wales up to January 17th.

In the past month, they include fines to a funeral director over a service attended by 150 in Welwyn Garden City, organisers of a mass snowball fight in Leeds and organisers of a wedding attended by around 150 people in north London. 

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Sir David Amess MP has died after stabbing incident, police say

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Sir David Amess / Twitter & Richard Townshend

A Conservative MP has died after being stabbed multiple times in his constituency.

Sir David Amess was attacked during an incident at his constituency surgery, Sky News reported earlier this afternoon.

According to police, he was treated by emergency services but died at the scene.

Sir David represents Southend West in Essex, and was reportedly attacked at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

According to Sky News, a man walked into his constituency surgery and stabbed the MP multiple times.

He received treatment at the scene for his injuries, with emergency services at the scene.

The road surrounding the location has been closed off while the incident is dealt with. 

Police said in a statement: “A man has been arrested on suspicion murder after a man was stabbed in Leigh-on-Sea.

“We were called to an address in Eastwood Road North shortly after 12.05pm today (Friday 15 October).

“We attended and found a man injured.

“He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene.

“A 25 year-old man was quickly arrested after officers arrived at the scene on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered.

“He is currently in custody.

“We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.”

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Conservative MP Sir David Amess stabbed multiple times in ‘major incident’

JUST IN…

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Richard Townshend

According to reports this afternoon, a Conservative MP has been stabbed multiple times in his constituency.

Sir David Amess was attacked during an incident at his constituency surgery, Sky News reports.

Sir David represents Southend West in Essex, and was reportedly attacked at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

According to Sky News, a man walked into his constituency surgery and stabbed the MP multiple times.

The latest updates suggest he has been receiving treatment at the scene for his injuries, and police are reportedly at the scene.

The road surrounding the location has been closed off while the incident is dealt with.

Essex Police have confirmed a man has now been arrested. 

They wrote on Twitter: “A man’s been arrested following an incident in Leigh-on-Sea.

“We were called to reports of a stabbing in Eastwood Rd North shortly after 12.05pm.

“A man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.

“We’ll bring you more info when we have it.”

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The Manchester Christmas Markets is moving to Piccadilly Gardens this year

Big changes for the Christmas Markets this year…

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Manchester City Council & David Dixon / Geograph

Manchester’s beloved Christmas Markets are making a grand return to the city this year, but its main hub will be found in a different location.

While the heart of the markets is usually centered around Albert Square, ongoing renovations to the Town Hall have forced them to move to Piccadilly Gardens, the council have confirmed today.

The area will be transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’, with all the usual yuletide bars, market stalls and food huts.

Plans for the Winter Gardens also include a one-way system and separate entrances and exits, as well as a strict limit on visitors to limit the spread of Covid-19.

David Dixon / Geograph

They are also adding a fully accessible toilet to make the Winter Garden as inclusive as possible.

Councillor Pat Karney, Manchester’s Christmas spokesperson, said: “It’s wonderful to welcome back our world-famous Christmas Markets and the addition of the Winter Gardens for the very first time.

“Manchester has been the capital of Christmas for twenty-two years since the very first Christmas Market arrived in the UK in 1999 and we know it was a huge disappointment that we had to scale back our celebrations last year.

“We’re making up for lost time this year and I can’t wait to see the transformation in the city centre into the festive wonderland we know and love.”

@mcrchristmasmarkets / Instagram

Last year, in what would have been the markets’ twenty-first birthday, the festivities were cancelled as a result of the pandemic, much to the dismay of Mancunians all across the region.

At the time, Councillor Karney said that even the proposed smaller markets didn’t meet public health approval, adding that the council ‘could never take any risks’ with people’s wellbeing.

He said: “We’ve cancelled everything. It’s not met our commercial and public health tests, so the three markets in those locations have been cancelled, and won’t take place. It was a million miles from the traditional Christmas Markets, which obviously people would have been very anxious about.”

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