Figures released by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) show a total of 163 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been issued in the county between 00.01hrs on 27 March and 00.01hrs on 13 April.
Of these, 135 were issued over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend (10-13 April) and the vast majority at beauty spots including coastal resorts.
Nationally, a total of 3,203 have been issued across all police forces in England during this time, Sussex Police said.
Sussex Police Chief Constable Giles York said this figure is a tiny proportion when compared to the significant number of people officers have engaged with.
“Our approach has been, and remains, to encourage and support people to make the right choices to comply with the restrictions in place and to only use enforcement as a last resort,” he said.
“Thankfully, the vast majority of people are fully complying with the guidance and we thank them for helping to stop the spread of the virus.
“Our officers and PSCOs are engaging with literally thousands of people every day and we have recorded an increasing number of incident reports from members of the public reporting perceived breaches since the legislation was brought in.”
More than 60 per cent of all online reports made to Sussex Police last week related to Covid-19 breaches – 2,723 of 4,163 report Sunday to Sunday. This represented a four-fold increase in the number of Covid-19 related online reports from the previous week and ranged from reports about individuals, to groups and businesses, police said.
The Chief Constable added: “But while most have adhered to our advice and have had genuine reasons for being outdoors, a very small minority of people have refused to cooperate.
“Notably, a significant proportion of fines were issued to people who had travelled into the county during the Bank Holiday weekend to visit the coast and local beauty spots, which clearly goes against advice and we will be working to further deter this.”
Among those fined were a family who travelled from Birmingham to Brighton for a day out; a family from St Albans who travelled to Camber for a walk on the beach; a couple who travelled from Hemel Hempstead to Eastbourne because they heard the view was nice; a number of motorists who went out for a ride or drive because it was sunny; and a number of people who travelled from London for picnics and sunbathing on Brighton beach.
In each case, individuals were issued with £60 on-the-spot fines (reduced to £30 if paid within 30 days), police said.
The Chief Constable added: “This is new legislation and we are learning every day. Our officers and PSCOs are being asked to use their professional judgement and common sense around the legislation which does not cater for the range of complex lives that people lead.
“We will only use the new powers when we need them, and will continue to police by consent where we can and with the trust and help of our local communities.
“Overwhelmingly, people are making the right choices and doing the right thing to support the NHS and help prevent the spread of the virus in Sussex.”
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “Police officers across Sussex continue to do an outstanding job navigating their way through this complex time for operational policing. Public support shows that they have struck the right balance so far between explaining, encouraging and enforcing the social distancing measures in place to protect us all.
“Sussex is a popular destination and, when the weather is good, it attracts significant numbers of day-trippers. Sussex Police has issued consistent messaging to deter people from travelling to our county at this time and putting us all at more risk of this virus.
“Most of us understand the critical need to stick to these measures. However, there has been a small, selfish minority that have refused to heed the advice given and fines have had to be issued.
“The message from the Chief Constable has always been to use enforcement as a last resort and I wholeheartedly support this strategy on behalf of the public. This successful approach will continue to be how officers manage the restrictions going forwards.
“I want to thank the public for the sacrifices they are making. If we can all stay at home, we can reduce the risk to other people and ourselves and avoid putting unnecessary demands on our courageous emergency services.”