Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
Police fined a couple £60 for driving 20 minutes to see their elderly mother in a care home, claiming the visit breached Welsh Government regulations
South Wales Police fined Carol Richards and husband David, from Pen Y Fai, Bridgend for driving to see their 94-year-old mother at Picton Court Care Home, Porthcawl on Sunday January 10.
Mrs Richards said she was “mortified” and “caught off guard” when police stopped them during their journey home and gave them a £60 fine.
“I feel like I’m living in some sort of dystopian novel after what happened.”
She said the police officer who issued to fine was “pedantic and inflexible” when she explained she had been visiting her mother, Decima Minhinnick, who suffers from vascular dementia and other health issues.
“A police lady flagged us down and I thought ‘Oh right, they’re policing the area, that’s fine’.
“So I explained to her that we were going home, we’d been to Picton Court visiting my mother but she said this was a non-essential visit.
“She said ‘We’d all like to knock on our mother’s window to see them but you can’t do that,’ and I was totally gobsmacked. I was angry.
“She just would not listen to any protestations and so she said ‘You’re going to be issued with a £60 fixed penalty fine’.”
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.
Indoor visits are allowed during “exceptional circumstances”, for example end of life visits. The care provider can ultimately decide whether visits are allowed to a care home and they must ensure risk assessments, social distancing and safety measures are in place.
Mrs Richards said the couple had arranged the visit to Picton Court Care Home in advance with the permission of staff and spoke to her mother, Decima, through the window of her room, on the ground floor of the home.
“We were outside in the car park. We don’t see anyone, basically, my husband has asthma.”
The couple said they do not believe they breached lockdown rules and have made a complaint to the Police Complaints Commissioner.
“I do not want to pay this fine,” said Mrs Richards. “It’s not about the 60 quid, it’s about the principle and I want to go on seeing my mother.”
She also said the police officer who gave them the fine perhaps a mistake due to “all round lack of communication” within South Wales Police.
“It needs to be clarified. I want to see my mother again, she’s 94, she could be dead next month.
“Now I feel as if I’m breaking the law by driving down there to see her.”
A spokesperson for South Wales Police said: “At 4.15pm on Sunday 10th January, a police officer on patrol in the Porthcawl area issued a fixed penalty notice to a man who had travelled from his home in Penyfai to visit a relative.
“With Wales currently at Alert Level 4, Welsh Government regulations state that people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes and must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with.
“In order to support the national effort to help slow the spread of the virus, and assist in enforcing the restrictions, our officers have been given authority to stop any vehicle travelling within the force area, to check the reason for travel.”