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Police use of Fixed Penalty Notices under the Covid-19 regulations in Scotland: A new data report highlights links with deprivation and inequality


The report provides the first detailed analysis of police use of enforcement under the new temporary powers introduced by the Coronavirus Regulations to help stop the spread of the virus. 

It focuses on the nature and circumstances of the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) issued and the aggregate demographic profile of all recipients but does not include analysis of individuals or details of repeat offending, which will be the subject of a later report.

Type(s) of inequality and how inequality is defined:

Differences in the use of the powers in terms of demographic, geographical and deprivation profile of FPNs.

Approach or method used:

The report provides an analysis of the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) issued by Police Scotland under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 which were approved by the Scottish Parliament on 27th March 2020. The data used in the report are at an aggregate level and explore patterns at a divisional level without identifying any individuals or personal data. It includes data provided by Police Scotland’s Operation Talla Information Collation, Assurance and Liaison (OpTICAL) Group from the Coronavirus Intervention (CVI) system which has been established by Police Scotland to collect information on police activity in relation to the pandemic. The data analysed in this report includes all FPN tickets issued between 27th March and 31st May, which covers the initial phase of the lockdown in Scotland. 

Key findings/results:

  • There were 4,328 FPNs issued, meaning less than 0.1% of the Scottish population was affected.
  • Despite a sharp rise in the use of FPNs at the start of lockdown, this gradually reduced over time and they were rarely used by the start of Phase 1.
  • Most FPNs were issued in Greater Glasgow, but taking population size into account the highest rate of activity was in Argyll and West Dunbartonshire.
  • FPNs were most likely to be issued to men, young people, and people from White backgrounds.
  • The proportion of FPNs issued to people from BAME backgrounds and non-British nationals was slightly higher than population estimates.
  • More than four out of five individuals issued with FPNs were already known to the police on the criminal history system.
  • Almost a third of all Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued to people living in the top 10% most deprived communities of Scotland.
  • FPNs were twelve times more likely to be issued to people living in the 10% most deprived parts of Scotland compared to those living in the 10% least deprived areas.

Implication of findings/relevance to policy:

The Regulations placed severe constraints on people’s freedom of movement during lockdown which meant that the police were given powers to issue financial penalties to people who were behaving in ways that, under normal circumstances, would have constituted normal law-abiding behaviour.

A strong theme of this report is the relationship between enforcement and deprivation. Whatever the reason, it demonstrates a significant degree of inequality across the Scottish population-based on where people live and the circumstances they find themselves in. The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the issue of health inequalities, and there are forecasts of increasing economic and employment inequalities in the months and years ahead.

The data presented here suggest that the level of inequality may have been particularly pronounced for women compared to men, people in middle age rather than younger people or those in the oldest age groups, and those from White and African, Black or Caribbean backgrounds compared to those from other ethnic groups.

Further analysis of enforcement data will include a more detailed analysis of the individuals who received FPNs or the profile of those who were in receipt of more than one ticket. Further work will also be done to examine the ongoing profile of Police Scotland’s use of the temporary powers as lockdown progressed into each new phase of easing restrictions. 

Read the full report:

Data report on Police Use of Fixed Penalty Notices under the Coronavirus Regulations in Scotland