THOUSANDS of fines have been handed to coronavirus rule-breakers by police in Herefordshire, Worcester, and Shropshire.

West Mercia Police has issued more than 2,500 fines for breaches of Covid-19-related laws – but far fewer have been handed out since restrictions eased.

Human rights campaign groups say rapidly changing rules and "chaotic communications" have led to confusion over the fine system nationally, with some people unaware they were breaking the law.

Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council reveal a total of 2,666 fixed penalty notices were issued by West Mercia Police between March 27 last year and May 16 this year.

They include just six fines handed out after April 18 – 484 fewer than the 490 processed in the previous five weeks.

The latest figures cover the easing of restrictions on April 12, which saw the return of outdoor hospitality, non-essential retail and gyms as well as the "rule of six" outdoors.

However, they do not cover the May 17 reopening which saw different households allowed to mix indoors for the first time in months.

Across England and Wales, 120,519 fines were issued by the 43 territorial police forces, British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence for alleged breaches of Covid-19-related laws.

Of those, 5,117 were handed out in the four weeks to May 16, down from 16,699 the month before.

Of the fines issued in West Mercia between March 27 last year and May 16 this year the majority – 2,297 – were recorded under legislation which covers the restriction of movement and large gatherings.

Under other Covid-19-related regulations, there were 342 for failing to wear a face covering when required, and nine for breaching international travel rules.

The figures, which are updated monthly and cover the whole coronavirus period, could be impacted by fines processed late from previous months, as well as cancellations, the NPCC said.

People issued with a fine – the maximum is £10,000 – have up to 28 days to pay. Those who cannot pay or wish to contest it can take the matter before the courts.