Coronavirus: Police granted new powers to deal with people who defy Government lockdown
Members of the public who defy the Government's coronavirus lockdown could be fined £60, doubling to £120 for a second offence, under new police powers.
The fine will keep being doubled for anyone who repeatedly fails to comply – and police can make sure parents are taking steps to stop their children breaking the rules.
The new police enforcement powers – designed to help reduce the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives – were granted by the Government on Thursday (March 26) as the UK's Covid-19 death toll rose by 103 to 578, including four at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
If members of the public do not comply with the advice to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel, Hertfordshire Constabulary officers may:
- Instruct them to go home, leave an area or disperse
- Ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules
- Issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days, and
- Issue a £120 fixed penalty notice for second-time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence.
People who do not pay a fixed penalty notice could be taken to court, where magistrates can impose unlimited fines.
If a person continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully and police may arrest them where deemed proportionate and necessary.
"However, in the first instance, the police will always apply common sense and discretion, and seek to 'Engage, Explain and Encourage'," said a spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Constabulary. "Where individuals refuse to comply or repeatedly breach the legislation, our officers are ready to enforce the regulations as the public would expect us to do."
Hertfordshire’s Chief Constable Charlie Hall said: “This is a public health emergency and compliance with these measures is considered necessary to achieve the objective of effective social distancing.
“We have all heard the scientific advice, which clearly states this will slow the spread of the virus and save people’s lives.
“The constabulary urges self-compliance within all Hertfordshire’s communities. Officers and staff will encourage all citizens to do so, remind those who we see in public who we believe may not be following them to do so and only resort to enforcement action as a last resort.
“If we all work at this together we will slow the spread, save more lives and enable us to return to normality sooner.”
People are only allowed to leave their homes for the following four purposes:
- Shopping for food and medicine, as infrequently as possible
- One form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or bike ride – either alone or with members of their household
- Any medical need, or to provide care for, or to help, a vulnerable person, and
- Travelling to and from work, but only where they cannot work from home.
Gatherings of three or more people in public are not allowed except in very limited circumstances; for example, where it is for essential work purposes.
Members of the public should call 999 where a crime is in progress or there is a threat to life. If your call is not urgent, you should use the online reporting service or online webchat facility in order to ease the pressure on 999 lines and resources.
If you are seeking advice about Covid-19 and what it means for you, visit the Government’s website in the first instance. This will enable the police's call takers and officers to focus purely on policing matters and ensure resources are being used effectively.
If you want to report a case of Covid-19, visit the NHS website for advice.
More by this authorPaul Winspear