Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom has supported calls for police officers and the public to have clearer guidance on social distancing after the Government announced attempts to ease the lockdown.
John Apter, National Federation chair, claims life has become even harder for officers to enforce the new rules around the Government’s new ‘Stay Alert’ slogan because the public have received mixed messages.
He says police will not be able to ‘walk around with tape measures’ to check the two-metre distance rule.
Speaking to Sky News presenter Kay Burley after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s national address on Sunday evening, John said media headlines in the wake of his announcement had made people think the lockdown had completely ended.
“We hear people say [social distancing] ‘it’s about common sense’ but some of the people we deal with don’t use common sense, so the guidance has got to be crystal clear,” says John.
He also called for clarity around when it would be appropriate for officers to issue fines to those breaching social distancing rules.
“It’s about policing by consent and issuing fines is a last resort. I need to understand why we are doing that because when you increase the level of fine, that could cause greater conflict with the people you’re dealing with,” he said. “I can tell you my colleagues will not be issued with tape measures to check two metre distances!”
Liz says she agrees with John’s concerns and called for clearer guidance to ensure a consistent approach in members’ attempts to protect the public and the NHS.
“The fact that there are different approaches to easing the lockdown in England, Scotland and Wales does not make this situation any easier for us,” says Liz.
“Police officers are the ones having to enforce rules on the front-line of the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and they will always do their very best to make sure that people stick to the new legislation.
“But it would be easier for everyone concerned if the guidance was much clearer. Any ambiguities can lead to problems and I have already had people asking me to clarify parts of the Government’s new plans.”
The new guidance says people can:
- Exercise outside as many times a day as they want – although a limit on the number of exercise sessions has never been enforced by law in England previously
- Spend time outdoors, other than for exercise, as long as they are not meeting up with more than one person from outside their household while observing social distancing measures by keeping two metres apart, and continuing to wash their hands regularly
- Drive to outdoor open spaces ‘irrespective of distance’ as long as they observe social distancing rules when there, and do not travel over borders to other parts of the UK where rules are different. Previously, the public were urged not to travel long distances to visit beaches, countryside and beauty spots.
No other specific examples of scenarios where members of the public would be considered to be flouting the rules, and therefore liable for fines, were provided.
Under the new guidelines, fines for people flouting the rules will increase to £100 from tomorrow, lowered to £50 if paid within two weeks, and will double for each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 will be updated from today (Wednesday 13 May) to reflect the changes coming into effect.