As Bristol experiences a number of high-profile cases of people breaking the Covid-19 lockdown measures, questions remain about how the laws can be enforced.
An anti-lockdown protest of around 400 people saw 13 arrested and some charged. Their actions prompted the chief constable to brand them ‘stupid’ and a ‘disgrace’.
In a major operation, officers clamped down on the demonstration in the city centre with investigations continuing into those organising and attending.
The protest was advertised openly in the days running up to it by those supporting Bristol tattooist Aron Walton who has repeatedly refused to close his Gloucester Road business during the lockdown.
Last week he was issued a £1,000 fine, which he says he will refuse to pay and insists he will reopen soon, when police and city council officials forced entry into the shop.
It comes as there is some confusion on how the laws put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus can be enforced.
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So-called ‘super-fines’ of £10,000 were last week scrapped by police forces before being re-instated this week, with two already issued in the Avon and Somerset Area.
The levies were suspended last Friday when police chiefs flagged the potential disparity in punishment between those who accept the fixed penalty notice (FPN) and those who challenged them in court.
Owners of the Jack of Diamonds club have been slapped with the fine after a party was discovered at the club while an unlicensed music event in Yate, which hundreds of people attended, were also fined the top amount.
And the fact more than two thirds of coronavirus fines are currently unpaid in some areas of England has prompted experts to label the laws a ‘mess’.
The startling figures, released by the PA news agency under freedom of information legislation, revealed that these nine forces saw 60% or more of penalties go unpaid within 28 days between March 27 and September 21.
Lawyers and campaigners have called for a review of the process to make sure powers were being used fairly.
It comes as Bristol has seen a sharp rise in the number of infections, with an estimated case rate of 10,739 per million people.
It means the city is one of the places most at risk of entering the toughest local lockdown tier when England emerges from its second national lockdown.
More than 2,200 coronavirus infections were recorded in Bristol in the seven days up to November 11 and the city is now amongst the worst hit areas in the country, ranking 16 across 149 local authorities.
While 43 areas of Bristol have some of the highest rates of coronavirus infection, a spike in cases in an area of South Bristol has meant it has become the seventh worst place in the country for Covid-19 in the second wave of the pandemic.