Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Two human rights groups have claimed that fines issued by Dyfed-Powys Police for breaches of coronavirus restrictions were a cause for concern.
Big Brother Watch and Liberty said Dyfed-Powys Police handed out more fixed penalty notices per head of population than most other forces in England and Wales, and that people of colour were 4.7 times more likely to be on the receiving end than white people.
The groups said people of colour were 1.6 times more likely to be fined for breaches, taken as an average of all police forces in England and Wales.
The groups have called on Dyfed-Powys Police to instigate a review of the fines it has issued.
The force said it regularly invited independent scrutiny of fixed penalty notices, and asked Big Brother Watch and Liberty if they had examples of fines they considered to be disproportionately or inappropriately issued.
The two groups said Dyfed-Powys Police was in the top 10 of 43 police forces in England and Wales when it came to handing out fines to people of colour.
In a letter to the force’s chief constable Mark Collins, Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo and Liberty advocacy director Grey Collier said the force had a duty to rectify disparities under equality laws.
“The most obvious and effective remedy would be to review all fixed penalty notices issued under these laws,” they said.
Dyfed-Powys Police said enforcement was only a last resort.
A force spokesman said: “Our region’s population is dramatically boosted every spring and summer by visitors from elsewhere in the UK, and this trend unfortunately continued despite lockdown warnings, with a high percentage of those reported for breaching the regulations coming from outside the force area.”
He said it looked at this trend and took action accordingly.
“For example, we identified that a large proportion of visitors to our area during this period were from communities resident in the Birmingham and Manchester areas, and so we purposely targeted messages about the lockdown restrictions in Wales to those areas and communities,” said the spokesman.
Big Brother Watch and Liberty said they found explanations by police forces that a sizeable number of fines had been handed out to non-residents “unconvincing”.
They said even if this were an acceptable explanation, they claimed that people of colour who were residents of the Dyfed-Powys force area were 2.2 times more likely to receive a fine than white residents.
The Dyfed-Powys Police spokesman said: “We would ask the authors of the letter whether they have any examples of fixed penalty notices that have been issued by Dyfed-Powys Police which they consider to have been issued disproportionately or inappropriately.”