Just four police forces in England have issued fines to people not wearing face coverings, new figures reveal.
With face coverings mandatory on public transport, the British Transport Police (BTP) gave out by far the largest number of fixed penalty notices – with 51 issued throughout the summer.
Digital marketing agency Reboot sent Freedom of Information requests to every police force in England in August asking how many fines had been issued since face coverings and masks were made compulsory in shops (July 24) and indoor locations (August 8).
Face masks have been compulsory on public transport since June 15. BTP said its officers had stopped 50,729 people between June 10 and September 8, and had carried out more than 5,000 “interventions” – where officers approached passengers not wearing face coverings and asked them to get off.
The force said it had dished out £5,100 in penalties up to August 18.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) came in second, issuing six fines – five of which were for £100 and one for £200. Lancashire had issued two fines, totalling £200, and officers in Lincolnshire had given out just one £100 fine.
Just three of England’s 34 police forces – Northumbria, Nottinghamshire and Sussex – did not respond to the FOI request.
There have long been concerns that the new laws would be unenforceable in practice, with already-stretched police warning that there would not be enough officers to monitor the public.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told the BBC’s Today programme back in July that mandatory face mask rules would be “nigh on impossible for enforcement” as shop owners had no powers to detain anyone not wearing a mask and there were not enough officers to patrol every shop.
In the wake of face coverings being made mandatory in indoor settings, including public transport, a number of social media posts claiming police had no powers to enforce the law went viral, but these claims were quickly debunked.
Officers have the power to issue £200 fines (reduced to £100 if payed within 14 days) to anyone not wearing a mask where it is compulsory, unless they have a medical exception.
Repeat offenders will face increased fines, doubling every time after the first offence. Someone receiving a fixed penalty notice a second time would be fined £400 and so on – all the way up to £6,400.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.