NORTH Wales saw an increase in covid fines after Christmas because rule-breakers ran out of excuses, a police boss has said.

Data published by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) on Thursday shows more than 1,700 fines were issued by police in North Wales for breaches of Covid-19 laws over Christmas and the start of this year.

That represents around three-quarters of all fines issued across the region since the start of the pandemic.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: "I know the numbers were higher [from Christmas onwards].

"In the first lockdown, a lot of discretion was used.

"Officers used the four E's - educate, explain, encourage and then enforce - and at the beginning, people were allowed to get used to the rules.

"But by Christmas, they were running out of excuses for why they were breaking the regulations and police were more likely to enforce at that point.

"That's the reason for the increase, I think.

"I don't believe compliance was as high with the second lockdown as it was for the first.

"When it comes to mask wearing and social distancing, people have been very good.

"We did have a minority of 'covid-deniers' which not helpful and frankly irresponsible."

The NPCC confirmed a total of 2,366 fixed penalty notices were recorded as being issued by North Wales Police between March 27 last year and April 18 this year.

They include 1,741 fines after December 20 – 74 per cent of the total handed out by officers since the pandemic began.

However, the figures do show a slowing down in the number of fines issued over more recent weeks, with 750 given out by officers between March 14 and April 18.

Across England and Wales, police forces have issued 110,322 fixed penalty notices under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations.

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 cover the start of national lockdown in Wales, which was imposed on December 20.

The approach by police nationally has been called into question by MPs and peers who, in calling for a review, have described the fines as "muddled, discriminatory and unfair".

In a report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said the Coronavirus Act had been misunderstood and wrongly applied by police.

Harriet Harman, JCHR chair, said: “The police have had a difficult job in policing the pandemic.

"We hope that their initial approach – to engage, explain and encourage before issuing fixed penalty notices – will continue.

"However, since January there have been greater numbers of FPNs as police move more quickly to enforcement action."

Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, NPCC lead for the police response to Covid-19, said: “Policing has quickly adapted to changes in these unprecedented circumstances.

"When new regulations are issued, we ensure officers have additional guidance on the legislation and we continue to support them to reduce any errors in its application.

"We do recognise however that we have not got it right in every circumstance."

He added that the NPCC would work with its criminal justice partners to rectify any errors.

Speaking of North Wales Police's overall response to the pandemic, Arfon Jones added: "Policing being an emergency service always steps up to the plate, irrespective of how difficult it is.

"We have learned a lot about how we deliver the service and I think we have adapted well. "We still have several hundred people working from home and i don't think we will be going back to how things were 18 months ago."