People from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in West Mercia were more than four times as likely to be fined for breaching Covid-19 lockdown rules than white people, new figures suggest.

The National Police Chiefs' Council says it is concerned by "disproportionality" in the issuing of fixed penalty notices by forces in England and Wales, but added the picture is complex with wide variation across the two countries.

Figures published by the NPCC show West Mercia Police, which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, handed out 173 fines between March 27 and May 25.

Of those, 133 were to white people and 25 to those of black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

Analysis carried out by Government statisticians for the NPCC suggests that people from BAME backgrounds were fined at a rate of 5 in every 10,000 people, compared to 1.1 in every 10,000 white people.

That means fines for BAME people were 4.5 times higher than for white people – well above the national average of 1.6.

Rates were calculated using police force area population estimates from mid-2016 – the latest year with an ethnicity breakdown. The figures include residents as well as those who travelled to the area.

The data also suggests that across England and Wales, young men aged between 18 and 34, from BAME backgrounds, were over-represented by around twice the rate of young white men in the same age groups.

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “While it is a complex picture, it is a concern to see disparity between white and black, Asian or ethnic minority people.

“Each force will be looking at this carefully to assess and mitigate any risks of bias – conscious or unconscious – and to minimise disproportionate impact wherever possible.

“Many forces have brought in community representatives to help them scrutinise the circumstances around each FPN and if it has been issued fairly."

He added that the NPCC is working towards a plan of action to address issues of inclusion and race equality, such as lower trust in police from black communities and concerns around the use of stop and search.

Analysis showed huge variation in the number of fines issued in different areas of the country, with rates generally higher in coastal areas and beauty spots.

But it found those areas typically have relatively small BAME populations, meaning a small number of fines issued to BAME people could lead to high disparity rates.

Earlier this month, civil liberties group Big Brother Watch demanded a review of all lockdown fines issued in England and Wales, describing the new coronavirus laws as "draconian".

Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns officer at human rights campaign group Liberty, also recently told the Commons Home Affairs Committee it was important there was a "wholesale review of the fines and that people have a right to appeal".

Mr Hewitt said enforcement of fines is a last resort, and the data does not show the "hundreds of thousands of occasions" where a fine was not needed after engagement and an explanation from officers.