London, Jun 3 (PTI) Scotland Yard on Wednesday released its first set of data from policing action taken to impose the coronavirus lockdown across London, which reveals a high proportion of ethnic minorities being fined or arrested for breaches.
The Metropolitan Police said it had issued 973 fines, or Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), between March 27 and May 14. Those categorised as Asian, which would include people of Indian origin, received 220 fines reflecting 22.6 per cent of FPNs compared to their 18 per cent share of London’s population.
Black people received 253 fines, reflecting 26 per cent of FPNs compared to their 12 per cent share of the UK capital’s population. This compares with 444 fines for those categorised as White British, making up 45.6 per cent of the FPNs while making up 59 per cent of London’s population.
“When compared with the composition of the resident population, higher proportions of those in black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups were issued with FPNs or arrested across London as a whole,” the Met Police admitted.
“The reasons for this are likely to be complex and reflect a range of factors. This includes interactions between the areas subject to significant proactive policing activity targeting crime hot-spots and both the variation in the age-profile and geographical distribution of ethnic groups in London,” it said.
Of a total of 711 arrests made in connection with COVID-19 legislation, the largest group of arrested people were white at 38 per cent, followed by blacks at 31 per cent and 14 per cent Asian. When taken just in terms of total numbers without proportionality, more white people received FPNs or were arrested than other individual ethnic groups.
Since mid-May, the minimum fine for a COVID-19 law breach in England increased from 60 pounds to 100 pounds, reducing if paid within 14 days.
In its report reflecting the first detailed analysis of the new coronavirus legislation brought in as the UK went into lockdown on March 23, the Met Police said it had adopted a “proportionate approach” to the enforcement of breaches of the COVID-19 legislation from the outset.
It said it had set out to “engage, explain and then encourage” people to adhere to the regulations and it was only when this approach has been unsuccessful that enforcement was resorted to.
The vast majority of coronavirus fines and arrests in London have involved young men and Scotland Yard found a “strong correlation to hot weather and holiday periods contributing to people being out” in the early stages of the lockdown.
“Our aim has been to protect London, and not to unnecessarily criminalise where we can avoid it. We have seen, overall, good compliance when we have intervened, meaning in most cases the need for issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice or arrest has been unnecessary,” said Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons.
'However, as well as playing our part in protecting London from the spread of COVID-19, throughout this period the Met has been determined to remain proactive and target those involved in violence and wider criminality. We have seen police proactively undertaking patrols and targeting crime hotspots,” he said.
The Met Police statistics follow separate statistics released by the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), also showing some racial disproportionality across England and Wales.
'Throughout this pandemic, officers have only enforced as a last resort and have taken a common sense approach, applying their discretion and judgement when engaging with the public,” said National Police Chiefs' Council Chair Martin Hewitt. PTI AK ZH