Statement from ACC Todd regarding fines issued following gathering
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd, said: "We’re aware of a letter which has been sent to our Chief Constable by two local MPs.
"We acknowledge their concerns and would like to use this opportunity to explain our position.
"A number of fixed penalty notices were issued following a gathering outside West Midlands Police headquarters on 21 November.
"Following a review, the people present were found to be in breach of regulation nine of coronavirus legislation. This relates to gatherings of more than two people in a public place.
"We were given advanced notice of a planned convoy of vehicles in Birmingham on 21 November. After liaising with the organisers this was reviewed and not deemed to be in breach of the legislation.
"The organisers were made aware that any gathering would be in breach of lockdown two regulations unless exemptions applied.
"The convoy set off as planned and later paused in Bromsgrove Street, where there was a gathering on foot. We spoke to the people present and reminded them that such gatherings were in breach of regulations. They left a little while later and so no further action was taken.
"However, a short time later members of the same group gathered again outside West Midlands Police headquarters, in breach of lockdown regulations.
"Approximately 20 people gathered for around 15 minutes before leaving.
"On the day, we were responding to the spontaneous nature of these gatherings, their intention to gather was not communicated in advance. If this had been known, a different policing response would have been in place. Officers present tried to engage and explain on the day. Following a review of the evidence and circumstances it has been decided that enforcement action is appropriate.
"We have since conducted a proportionate investigation and as part of this we’ve been seeking to identify those who were breaching the rules at the gathering.
"Having reviewed the nature and scale of the gatherings in Bromsgrove Street and outside Lloyd House, we have been able to identify seven people that were present. They have been issued with a £200 fixed penalty notice.
"We have also taken action against people at a protest in Wolverhampton the week before (14 November). 12 people were arrested and issued with fixed penalty notices.
"We’re also currently investigating after a rally in West Bromwich last month, (12 December) where 1000 directions to leave and three fixed penalty notices were issued.
"We accept the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest is a key part of any democracy.
"However, coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread.
"We assess and carefully balance the regulations and individual freedom against the current lockdown restrictions, working with the organisers of such events.
"We continue to encourage people to comply with the regulations to keep everyone as safe as possible. If there are breaches it’s our responsibility to take action. We issued 671 fixed penalty notices for breaches during lockdown two, of which 596 were for gathering offences.
"With regards to other protests from earlier last year, it’s worth recognising that the legislation has changed slightly since then, as has the national approach to policing through the pandemic. Our policing style has evolved because infection rates have continued to rise since lockdown two and we therefore seek to enforce breaches quicker than we previously have."