FOUR men who were arrested after an air rifle was fired from the window of a car in a village near Marlborough were the first people in Wiltshire to be issued with penalty notices under the new coronavirus rules.

A police spokesman said: “At approximately 5.30pm on Saturday we received a report that a car had been seen travelling in the Axford area near Marlborough firing an air rifle from the window.

“The vehicle – a black Audi A4 – was stopped by officers in Elmina Road, Swindon.

“The car was searched and an air rifle was found in the boot – this was seized. Cannabis was also located inside the vehicle.

“Four men – age 29, 35, 37 and 38 and from the Swindon area – were all arrested on suspicion of having an air weapon in a public place and possession of a class B drug.”

They were taken to Gablecross custody for questioning and in addition to this, they were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices after failing to comply with the Coronavirus Act which states you must only leave your house for essential travel.

All four individuals have since been released under investigation while further enquiries are carried out.

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “Here in Wiltshire, officers are very much focusing on engagement and encouragement - enforcement is always our last option and on this occasion, officers did the right thing by issuing Fixed Penalty Notices. This was clearly an incident where enforcement was needed and I fully support their decision.

“These are the first FPNs we have issued in the county under the new legislation but I fear they will not be the last, as over the weekend I have been disappointed to hear of a number of significant incidents in our county and I am aware of a dramatic increase in Covid-19–related calls to our Crime and Communication Centre.”

A man from Semington has been charged with assaulting an emergency worker after claiming to have Covid-19 and coughing in the face of a PCSO.

Felix Rooney, 42, of Littleton, was arrested on Tuesday and has since been charged with assaulting an emergency worker, as well as further charges of theft and using threatening or abusive words/behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

He has been released on unconditional bail and is due to appear at Salisbury Magistrate Court next month.

On Saturday there were also incidents in Melksham. In one yesterday evening, a visually impaired woman was walking her dog in Halifax Road when she asked a man to keep his distance - she was subsequently coughed at by the man who then left the scene.

Police said: “This caused her upset and distress. We are now treating this as a hate crime incident and would appeal to anyone with information to get in touch."

On Sunday police were called to a property to break up a garden party in Royal Wootton Bassett.

Two men, aged 28 and 33, were each fined £60 after they were found in the same car on Royal Wootton Bassett’s High Street.

Chief Constable Pritchard said “We have seen an increase in people being outside and in public areas over the weekend."

It was "disappointing" to hear that some of the new information posters urging people to follow the self-isolation restrictions had been pulled down.

He added: “These incidents are absolutely disgraceful and completely unacceptable. They show that not only are people flouting the rules but they are going out of their way to make others feel extremely distressed.

“I would urge you all to remember these rules are to save lives.”