Vicar left ‘disappointed’ over lockdown fine

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PA Media

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The Rev Martin Poole said he had taken Mr Hancock “at his word”

A vicar who was assured a review of fines handed to families during lockdown is disappointed the government has “rowed back” on the pledge.

The Rev Martin Poole had asked if the government would review any fines given to families travelling for childcare, amid the row over Dominic Cumming’s journey to Durham – also for childcare.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock had promised a “full answer” in writing.

But after Tuesday’s briefing, Downing Street said there would be no review.

It was confirmed on Wednesday by Housing Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick who said: “It’s for the police to decide whether to impose fines under the law.”

He said officers had “a degree of discretion to use their common sense, reflecting the fact that all of our circumstances are different and families in particular face particular challenges”.

Mr Poole told the BBC: “I took him (Mr Hancock) at his word that he would go away and have some discussions and that was really nice to hear. It’s a little disappointing to hear afterwards that they’ve rowed back on that a bit.”

Fines ‘flip-flop’

At Tuesday’s briefing, Mr Hancock had pledged to speak to the Treasury over the issue and make a future announcement.

Within minutes of the press conference, Downing Street sources told political reporters there would be no review.

Later on Tuesday, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for an urgent answer from Home Secretary Priti Patel, adding: “It’s now been made incredibly difficult to police vital public health guidance, as this flip-flop over fines shows.”

Latest figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council show a total of 14,244 fixed penalty notices were recorded by forces in England between 27 March and 11 May, for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.

It is not known how many, if any, fines were handed to families travelling for childcare purposes.

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