Police crack down on lockdown rule breakers amid record number of COVID deaths

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·3 min read
 Policemen are seen wearing facemasks around Parliament Square. Public people are seen wearing facemasks while out shopping in London following prime minister, Boris Johnson's announcement of a new three tier lockdown system because of the increasing cases of coronavirus infections in the UK. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Policemen are seen wearing facemasks around Parliament Square. (SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
coronavirus latest news
coronavirus latest news

Police forces across the country have been ramping up efforts to crack down on coronavirus lockdown flouters.

Ministers are reportedly considering a “tough crackdown” on those breaching restrictions due to concern at the level of public compliance with current regulations, according to the Daily Telegraph.

It comes as the UK recorded its highest single-day death toll for Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

Current rules state that the public must stay at home and limit exercise to once per day while staying inside their local area.

Read: 50 areas of England now have more than 1,000 COVID cases per 100,000 people

However, the legislation in England does not specify the distance someone can travel to exercise.

In Derbyshire, two friends Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore said they were fined £200 each for driving five miles to meet for a walk, adding that they were “treated like criminals”.

Allen told the BBC they were surrounded by police when they met up at a reservoir near where they live.

A police vehicles passes a Coronavirus related poster on a phone box outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary after severe lockdown restrictions were announced for December and January with all of the country moving into the highest level of lockdown from Boxing Day.
The public are being order to stay at home again (PA)

She said: “They read us our rights to say that anything we say may be held in evidence and used in court. We had gone for a walk five miles away from home!”

Meanwhile, police in Shropshire have come under fire for threatening people with fines if caught playing in the snow.

In a now deleted-tweet, they wrote: “This is obviously not a justifiable reason to be out of your house, this behaviour is likely to result in a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice for breaking the lockdown rules.”

After the force faced a severe backlash, superintendent for the Shropshire area, Mo Lansdale said the tweet had not given the full context that snowballs were being thrown at the homes of elderly and vulnerable residents past 11pm.

Watch: New TV campaign urges public to stay at home

He added: “We will not tolerate the targeting of vulnerable people and there are a number of powers available to us to protect people.”

In London, the Met Police said people "can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about" to make sure they have a reasonable excuse for leaving their homes.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said it was right for officers to be "inquisitive" about why people were outside.

Anyone "blatantly ignoring the regulations should expect to receive a fixed penalty notice," he said.

Meanwhile, Home secretary Priti Patel, defended the tougher approach when asked whether police would question people sat on park benches during the lockdown.

RETRANSMITTED CORRECTING SPELLING OF CARMARTHENSHIRE Welsh police pull over cars at a checkpoint during firebrake vehicle patrols close to the border between Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, Wales. First Minister Mark Drakeford will unveil new national coronavirus measures for Wales on Monday.
Welsh police pull over cars at a checkpoint during firebrake vehicle patrols close to the border between Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, Wales. (PA)

"It's right that police act robustly," she told BBC Radio 4: "Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, during the last lockdown, the police have been asking individuals why are they out and about and should they be out and about, when the message right now is stay at home."

But Tim Loughton, a Tory MP and member of the home affairs select committee, warned that police should not “over-interpret” the regulations.

He said: "We need a large dose of common sense where enforcement is very much the last resort."

Read: The ‘clear problem’ with the global vaccine rollout, according to the WHO

In a bid to encourage the public to respect lockdown rules, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty is fronting a new TV advert, warning “many people are at risk of serious disease”.

The televised campaign was launched on Friday and shows a sombre-looking Prof Whitty says in his health message: “Covid-19, especially the new variant, is spreading quickly across the country.”

He added: “Vaccines give clear hope for the future but for now you must stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.

Watch: COVID-10: Lockdown mobility data shows people have become accustomed to breaking the rules