LONDON: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain acknowledged on Friday that he had been fined by police for not wearing a seat belt after he posted an Instagram video of himself riding in a car without one. Sunak’s office said he would pay the penalty but did not disclose the amount.
“The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologized,” Sunak’s office said in a statement. “He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”
Under British law, which requires seat belts with few exceptions, violations can result in fines of up to 500 pounds, or about $620.
Sunak’s office acknowledged the fine after a video on his Instagram page showed him riding in a car without a seat belt as he visited Lancashire, in northwest England. In the video, he was promoting his “leveling up” fund, a program intended to invest in local communities and create jobs.
The video drew widespread attention from those who noticed that the prime minister was not buckled up.
Lancashire police wrote on Facebook on Friday “that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seat belt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.”
“After looking into this matter,” police wrote that they had “issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”
It was the second time in the last year that Sunak had been fined for having violated the law.
In April, Sunak, then the chancellor of the Exchequer, was fined by police, along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for having attended a lockdown party at the prime minister’s residence on Downing Street that broke coronavirus laws.
The scandal involved reports of officials gathering in apparent violation of coronavirus rules. Sunak said at the time that he had paid his fine and apologized.
The latest penalty provided fresh fodder for opposition leaders to criticize Sunak, a member of the Conservative Party who took over as prime minister in October after a period of extraordinary tumult in British leadership.
“To be fair, he normally travels by private jet,” Darren Jones, a member of Parliament from the Labour Party, wrote on Twitter in response to the announcement that Sunak had been fined. “Maybe there wasn’t a seatbelt sign in the car.”
Others chided Sunak, saying his failure to wear a seat belt was blatantly unsafe.
“Not only is failing to wear a seatbelt against the law but deeply irresponsible,” Lilian Greenwood, a member of Parliament from the Labour Party, wrote on Twitter. She added, “What is it with Tories and a total disregard for road safety?”
Others expressed satisfaction that police had acted swiftly in response to the video.
“Whilst they continue to behave as though it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else,” Daisy Cooper, a leader of the Liberal Democrats, wrote on Twitter, “this fine is a reminder that the Conservatives eventually get their comeuppance.” -- Retuers/AFP