NORTH Wales Police has issued almost 3,000 fines for breaches of Covid-19-related laws – but fewer have been handed out since restrictions eased.

Human rights campaign groups say rapidly changing rules and 'chaotic communications' have led to confusion over the fine system nationally, with some people unaware they were breaking the law.

Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council reveal a total of 2,886 fixed penalty notices were issued by North Wales Police between March 27 last year and May 16 this year.

They include 520 fines handed out after April 18 – 230 fewer than the 750 processed in the previous five weeks.

The latest figures cover the easing of restrictions with restaurants and pubs allowed to serve outdoors and non-essential shops and gyms permitted to reopen.

Across England and Wales, 120,519 fines were issued by the 43 territorial police forces, British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence for alleged breaches of Covid-19-related laws.

Of those, 5,117 were handed out in the four weeks to May 16, down from 16,699 the month before.

Chairman of the NPCC, Martin Hewitt, said a drop in the number of fines in recent weeks had been expected due to the lifting of restrictions.

But he said police officers would not stop in taking action against rule-breakers across the country.

He added: “For the selfish minority who continue to blatantly break the rules, such as organising or attending illegal indoor gatherings, officers won’t hesitate to take necessary enforcement action."

Of the fines in North Wales, there were three for holding a gathering of more than 30 people, which carries a £10,000 penalty.

The figures, which are updated monthly and cover the whole coronavirus period, could be impacted by fines processed late from previous months, as well as cancellations, the NPCC said.

Human rights campaign group Liberty said "rapidly changing rules, chaotic communications and a misguided emphasis on criminal justice over public health" led to confusion over the fine system and meant interpretation of coronavirus restrictions varied across different police force areas.

Head of policy and campaigns, Sam Grant, said: "At the outset of this pandemic, the Government created sweeping and coercive powers to enforce rules that were communicated chaotically.

"Add to this rapid changes and local lockdowns and policing was inevitably going to be uneven."

Meanwhile, charity Transform Justice's director Penelope Gibbs said: "The problem with Covid fines is that those fined have often had no idea whether they were transgressing the law or not.

"The new laws have been rushed in, have changed frequently and the police and the public have frequently confused legislation and guidance.

"So many, if not most, Covid fines are unfair."

People issued with a fine – the maximum is £10,000 – have up to 28 days to pay. Those who cannot pay or wish to contest it can take the matter before the courts.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said police officers have worked "tirelessly" to keep the public safe during the pandemic.

They added: "Whilst the majority of us have been able to stay at home our courageous officers have been out on the streets pursuing cimrinals, protecting the public and enforcing the coronavirus rules where necessary."

At the Welsh Government coronavirus briefing on June 7, First Minister Mark Drakeford said there are currently 97 cases of the Delta variant in Wales.

When asked if the restrictions are lifted in England on June 21, will Wales follow suit?

He said: "We don't follow suit.

"We make the right decisions for Wales and we make them for our own circumstances.

"We will not be lifting every restriction in Wales from the 21st June because particularly with the new variant and the inevitability of a third wave... we won't be lifting all restrictions here."

Mr Drakeford said Welsh Government will reserve the right to ‘take strict local measures’ to deal with local outbreaks.

From June 7

Extended households can be formed between 3 households. A further household with a single adult/single adult with caring responsibilities can also join this.

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors including private gardens and public spaces

Larger organised events and gatherings outdoors are allowed such as concerts and sporting activities - for up to 4,000 people in non-seated and 10,000 people seated.