UK leader Rishi Sunak fined for failing to wear seat belt

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Northern School of Art, in Hartlepool, England, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (Scott Heppell/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON (AP) — U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was fined by police on Friday for taking off his seat belt to film a social media video in a moving car.

Sunak, 42, has apologized for making an “error of judgment” while recording a message for Instagram from the back of an official government car during a visit to northwest England on Thursday.

The Lancashire Police force said it had looked into video “circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seat belt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.” The force said, without naming Sunak, that it had “issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”

Failing to wear a seat belt is punishable by a penalty of up to 500 pounds ($620), though fixed penalty notices for such offenses are usually 100 pounds ($124) if paid promptly.

The conditional offer means that the person fined accepts guilt but doesn’t have to go to court. Police didn’t say how much Sunak was fined.

Sunak’s office said in a statement that “the prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologized. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”

It’s the second time Sunak has been fined during his political career. Last year, when he was Treasury chief, he was fined 50 pounds for breaching pandemic lockdown rules by briefly attending a party inside government offices. He was one of dozens of officials fined over the “partygate” scandal, including then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sunak took office as U.K. leader in October, promising “integrity, professionalism and accountability” after a tumultuous few years that saw Johnson ousted by multiple scandals and his successor Liz Truss toppled after her policies rocked the U.K. economy.