Police drop fine given to couple who visited elderly mother in care home
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
Police have revoked a £60 fine given to a couple who drove seven miles to see their elderly mother in a care home.
South Wales Police have dropped a fixed penalty notice that was given to Carol and David Richards on Sunday, January 9 as they were driving home after visiting Mrs Richards’ 94-year-old mother at a care home.
Mrs Richards said it is “absolutely brilliant” that the fine has been revoked and she is looking forward to seeing her mother smiling and waving at her again.
“I feel a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel vindicated because this wasn’t right. It was a total injustice.”
Mrs Richards had arranged to see her mother, who suffers from vascular dementia, at Picton Court Care Home in Porthcawl with the permission of care staff.
They had spoken to her through the window of her room, on the ground floor of the home, before returning home to Pen-y-Fai in Bridgend – a route which takes around 20 minutes.
While driving home, the couple were stopped by a police officer, who told them their visit was not essential and issued them a £60 fixed penalty notice.
Police initially claimed the visit breached Welsh Government regulations but the couple said they had not broken the rules as they had been visiting Mrs Richards’ mother, Decima, on compassionate grounds.
“They’re just little, fleeting moments in our lives now but those moments are really precious to me and to the whole family,” said Mrs Richards.
“It’s very upsetting what’s happened to my mother with her dementia, it’s a horrible, horrible illness and we try to see her and communicate with her in a safe way.
“So to be told we were breaking the law was mortifying.
“I came home and thought, ‘What on earth am I going to do now?’ and felt totally helpless.”
According to guidelines on the Welsh Government website, outdoor visits to care homes are allowed under alert level 4 restrictions for “compassionate reasons”. Such visits cannot take place if there is an outbreak of Covid-19 at the home.
Compassionate reasons for visiting someone include checking-in on someone because they are suffering physically or mentally, or from bereavement or due to concerns with their general wellbeing or welfare.
Mrs Richards said the government restrictions should have been “communicated properly” among the police.
“We had a really productive phone call in the end and I think it was a learning curve for the police too,” she said.
“I’m not sure how common this situation has been with lockdown rules changing continuously. It must be hard for them as well.
Mr Richards said he was impressed by the way in which the Independent Office for Police Conduct handled the issue.
He said the member of staff who informed them the fine had been dropped on Wednesday evening was “very understanding”.
A spokesperson for South Wales Police said: “The circumstances of the journey and the issuing of the fine have since been reviewed and the notice has been rescinded.
“Wales remains at Alert Level 4 and South Wales Police will continue to patrol our communities to ensure the legislation, which has been enacted to help slow the spread of coronavirus, is complied with.”