GREATER Manchester Police (GMP) has handed out close to 4,500 fines for coronavirus breaches – with forces bracing themselves for an increase in crime as restrictions start to ease.

Data released by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) show that 4,485 fixed penalty notice (FPN) fines were dished out by the force for breaking Covid-19 rules between March 27, 2020 and March 14 this year.

Only the Metropolitan Police in London (14,595), Merseyside Police (6,148) and Northumbria Police (5,401) issued more FPNs in that time.

The statistics show that 14 fines have been handed out by GMP for holding a gathering of 30 people or more, while 51 have been given to people for breaking international travel rules.

In England and Wales, 94,368 FPNs have been issued with the the number of fines dropping in recent weeks.

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “While it is encouraging to see that the number of fines processed in the last month has decreased, a small number of people continue to defy the rules, putting themselves and other at risk of the virus.

"It is particularly frustrating to see the groups of selfish and irresponsible people organising and attending illegal parties and unlicensed music events – they clearly have no regard for the rules and we move quickly to enforcement in these cases.

“Looking ahead as restrictions start to ease, we will be focusing our efforts on these types of large indoor gatherings.

"Any person who organises or attends these events clearly doesn’t need the regulations explaining to them and we will not hesitate to issue fines where necessary."

Mr Hewitt added that police forces are anticipating an increase in crime as restrictions begin to ease.

He said: “As the rules change in the coming days, weeks and months, we can expect crime, including violent crime, to return to pre-lockdown levels.

"All forces have robust plans in place to deal with violence and clamp down on violent offenders.

"The national operation to target people carrying weapons will run again this spring.

“The government’s roadmap dates for coming out of lockdown does give people hope and some light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot become complacent.

"It is vital people continue to follow the rules at each stage when restrictions are eased.

"Otherwise, we risk undermining our efforts up to now.

“Our officers will be more visible at key dates in the roadmap, to engage with public and keep explaining the restrictions which remain in place at the time, and we hope the public will continue to support us in our efforts to prevent the further spread of the virus.”