CRIPPLING £10,000 fines for breaking lockdown were over the top, Dame Priti Patel admitted today.
But former PM Boris Johnson was revealed to have pushed for “bigger” penalties during the pandemic.
In a grilling at the Covid inquiry, then Home Secretary Dame Priti was challenged over police heavy-handedness.
Like a string of other witnesses, she blamed Matt Hancock’s Health Department for creating the draconian restrictions.
However the Tory MP said the maximum £10,000 fine enforced from the summer of 2020 was “very high” and was not “proportionate”.
Inquiry lawyer Hugo Keith told Dame Priti to ignore the “crushing irony” as he showed a note from Mr Johnson – who himself was famously fined – calling for harsher penalties.
He wrote: “I agree with the openings but the OVERRIDING MESSAGE should be about tougher enforcement and BIGGER FINES.”
Dame Priti also said she was “dismayed” by how Scotland Yard handled the vigil for Sarah Everard.
On the footage of cops pinning down women on Clapham Common, she said: “I saw the news that night and just felt that that was totally inappropriate policing.”
A former police boss also told the inquiry that officers delayed enforcing new laws because Mr Hancock only signed them off 16 minutes before they were due to kick in.
Martin Hewitt, ex-chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, despaired that rules coming into force at 12.01am were sent to him at 11.45pm.
He said: “So we had precisely 16 minutes. I had a conversation and was very clear with the home secretary at the time) that we would not be enforcing that regulation on that day and it was going to take us probably 24/36 hours to actually get to a place where I was confident police officers out there knew what they needed to do.”