Consultancy Report

Policing the Pandemic in England and Wales: Police use of Fixed Penalty Notices from 27 March 2020 to 31 May 2021



McVie S, Murray K, Gorton V & Matthews B (2023) Policing the Pandemic in England and Wales: Police use of Fixed Penalty Notices from 27 March 2020 to 31 May 2021. National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). Edinburgh.

Foreword: With new legislation being implemented at pace, and vaccination not available until early 2021 in meaningful quantities, policing’s focus was to encourage the public to follow the regulations to save life and safeguard the vulnerable, where reasonably possible. The policing approach nationally throughout the pandemic was therefore framed through the 4Es principle of engaging with individuals to explain the regulations and encourage compliance. If that was unsuccessful, only then would enforcement action take place. During the early stages of the pandemic however, there were indications of disproportionality in the fines given across England and Wales and the NPCC decided to commission independent detailed analysis to understand the issue in more detail. The first few months of the pandemic were exceptionally fast moving, with many iterations of regulations being issued. Accordingly, the data related to the fines issued, spans a range of regulations, and every police force in England and Wales. As the restrictions changed in relation to travel, movement, and gatherings, the initial analysis enabled us to understand patterns of failure to follow regulations. Specifically, the analysis gave us greater insight into who was receiving fines, where and why they were issued, and how patterns of usage varied. It is vital for the police to be open, transparent and share the data we have and have that independently analysed to find areas in which we can improve. We know that over time, frustration grew amongst the public and attitudes changed towards following the rules. It was important to capture this potential change in public attitude within the data analysis. This further report therefore builds on the first report and examines how policing of the pandemic changed over time, with three time-periods analysed based on patterns of enforcement during the pandemic and related policy and legislative change. Professor Susan McVie, Dr Kath Murray and Dr Victoria Gorton from the University of Edinburgh, alongside Dr Ben Matthews from the University of Stirling have great experience in this field. Having already analysed pandemic enforcement data for Police Scotland, they were a natural fit to undertake this further analysis for the NPCC.

Publication date09/03/2023
Publication date online09/03/2023
Place of publicationEdinburgh

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Dr Ben Matthews

Dr Ben Matthews

Lecturer in Social Statistics&Demography, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology