BLACK and Asian people in Sussex were more likely to be given fines for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules than white people, new figures suggest.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request to the National Police Chiefs Council show Sussex Police issued 2,118 fixed penalty notices for breaches of coronavirus regulations between March 2020 and January 2022, where ethnicity was stated.

Of these, 1,625 were handed to white people, which equates to a rate of 10.8 fines for every 10,000 white people in the area.

Black people received just 168 fines, but this equates to a rate of 117.9 for every 10,000 people, meaning they were 10.9 times more likely to be fined.

Asian people also received fines at a higher rate than white people, at 30.4 per 10,000 people, meaning they were almost three times more likely to be fined.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said that, in some months during lockdowns, “a large number of fixed penalty notices were issued to people who were not a resident of Sussex” and often lived in areas where the percentage of black and Asian people is higher than in Sussex.

He said: “Throughout this pandemic, and in line with national guidance, our officers and PCSOs worked to encourage people to comply with the new health regulations and used enforcement only as a last resort.

“Nevertheless, the figures do show disparity across gender, age and ethnicity that cannot be fully accounted for and we are particularly conscious of, and sensitive to, the concerns about racism or bias in policing globally.”

The police spokesman also said that the force is working to ensure operations and procedures are fair and ethical.

“While disparities may not necessarily always be a sign of discrimination, we are working to understand the causes and urgently reform how we work where bias exists,” he said.

Figures from 43 police forces in England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence Police, found black people were around 2.6 times more likely to be fined than white people.

Human rights organisation Liberty said the figures are evidence of the government prioritising criminalisation over public health and of bias within police forces.

Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: “The government laid the foundations for overzealous policing that fell hardest and most unfairly on people of colour.

“The response to the pandemic exposed pre-existing inequalities in how certain communities are over-policed.”

A Home Office spokesman said enforcement of Covid laws was used only as a last resort and it expects all officers to carry out their duties without prejudice.