ALMOST 1,000 fines have been handed out by Thames Valley Police for lockdown breaches since restrictions came into force, figures reveal.

Between March 27 and December 20 last year, 965 fixed penalty notices were issued by the force covering everything from not wearing a mask to mass gatherings, according to data from the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC).

It also shows 32,329 fines, which can range anywhere from £60 to £10,000, were given by all forces in England and Wales under coronavirus regulations during this period. Of these, 80 per cent were given to those aged between 18 and 39.

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In the Thames Valley, 771 were issued for breaches of Covid laws brought in during the first few months of the pandemic, 73 were linked to the tier system, and 97 to the national lockdown which began in November.

The total also included five fines for gatherings of more than 30 people, 12 for breaking international travel restrictions, five business breaches and two for flouting face covering rules such as on public transport.

Chief Superintendent Robert France, Gold Commander for Thames Valley Police’s response to coronavirus said: “Thames Valley Police continue to engage, explain and encourage people to abide by the restrictions.

“Where people have genuinely misunderstood the rules, or where there is an element of complexity, a simple reminder of the regulations is often enough for them to comply.”

But he said when officers encounter people who are ‘wilfully and blatantly’ ignoring the laws around coronavirus they will ‘look to enforce’, saying: "We all have a duty to stay at home unless there is a valid reason not to be there.”

Thames Valley Police was ranked 10th in England for the most fines handed out, with Northumbria Police topping the list with 3,034 fines since March.

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Examples in the Thames Valley from the early months of restrictions included one family fined for driving 300 miles from Bristol to see family in May.

A father and son, meanwhile, were stopped by police in Bicester at the start of the first lockdown in March making a non-essential car journey to play Pokemon Go.

Chief Superintendent France said: “We have now all been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for some time, as such many people should be familiar with what is required of them, so where we see people are making a choice and deliberately ignoring the rules they should expect to receive a fine.

“Restrictions on social gatherings and certain businesses remain in place.

"Gatherings which breach the rules and unlicensed events should not be happening.We strongly urge anyone thinking of attending or organising one not to do so.

"Organisers of such events could be given a substantial £10,000 fine and those attending will face enforcement through a fine."

He said resources were in place to 'respond appropriately' and would be targeted 'where the risk to the wider public is greatest'.

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The police chief added: “We will continue to work with our partners, businesses and the public to protect our communities from coronavirus.”

The NPCC data showed there has been a downward trends in fines, which peaked during the Easter bank holiday in April when 3,288 were handed out in a week.

By contrast, the most recently figures showed 542 fixed penalties in the week to December 17.

A coronavirus enforcement update posted by Thames Valley deputy police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber on Wednesday said the force would continue with an approach that was 'proportionate and appropriate'.

It added: "The vast majority of people are sticking to the guidance, managing to limit their contacts and when they must leave their homes, doing so within the law. Police officers across Thames Valley continue to deal with the normal daily issues of crime and public protection alongside the role of enforcing the coronavirus regulations.

"The virus is another threat to officers who often have to be in close contact with people in an already dangerous job."

The NPCC release also noted an overall fall in crime of twelve per cent in the month of November, compared to the same period last year.