HUNDREDS of fines were issued by police in Cumbria for breaches of Covid-19 laws over Christmas and the start of this year.

Figures published from the National Police Chief’s Council show that 719 fines were issued by Cumbria Constabulary after December 20 – 43 per cent of the total handed out by officers since the pandemic began.

A total of 1,660 fixed penalty notices were recorded as being issued by the force between March 27 last year and April 18 this year.

The figures also show the number of fines issued over more recent weeks, with 85 given out by officers between March 14 and April 18.

Across England and Wales, police forces have issued 110,322 fixed penalty notices under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations.

But the approach by police has been called into question by MPs and peers who, in calling for a review, have described the fines as “muddled, discriminatory and unfair”.

In a report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said the Coronavirus Act had been misunderstood and wrongly applied by police.

Harriet Harman, JCHR chair, said: “The police have had a difficult job in policing the pandemic.

“We hope that their initial approach – to engage, explain and encourage before issuing fixed penalty notices – will continue.

“However, since January there have been greater numbers of FPNs as police move more quickly to enforcement action.”

Coronavirus rules have changed at least 65 times since March 2020, providing “obvious challenges for police”, according to a report by the JCHR.

Of the fines in Cumbria from March 27 last year to April 18 this year there were 18 for failing to wear a face covering when required, and eight for breaching international travel rules.

There were also 12 for breaking business regulations and eight fines for breaching self-isolation regulations.

The figures cover the end of the tier system, which saw stricter restrictions on hospitality businesses and a banning of travel between areas with different tiers.

It was followed by the third national lockdown from January 6 when people were told to stay at home.

Cumbria's Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery said: “None of us have enjoyed restricting anyone’s freedom and none of us have taken any pleasure from the fact we have had to enforce this in a minority of cases.

“People began to question the restrictions as the year went on and that meant it became harder and harder for police officers to deal with.

“Sometimes before the Government made an announcement the police chief’s council was only informed a few hours before so we had a short time to inform our officers on duty and that was a regular occurrence that we had to adapt to.

“I would really like to thank the public in Cumbria for their cooperation and support for police.

“The vast majority have done their utmost to stick to regulations and helped the public authorities get the job done.

“It is only a small minority who have fallen foul of the law and made our jobs difficult.”