Police 'stretched' as crackdown begins on Covid rulebreakers

A police chief has admitted forces across the UK are ‘stretched’ as they step up a crackdown on Covid rulebreakers.

The first day of the third national lockdown yesterday saw officers in London pin down and arrest protesters outside the House of Parliament, after the Met vowed to get tough on mask dodgers.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said other police forces would take similar approaches with rulebreakers.

Asked on BBC Breakfast whether there were enough resources for the new approach, he said: ‘Of course this has stretched us, there’s no two ways (about it), we’ve been at this for 10 months.

‘Alongside this the police are also doing all the normal roles the police do to keep people safe so there’s no doubt this has stretched out resources and of course our people are tired in the way that everybody is tired.

‘This has been really difficult and I don’t make any bones around that.’

Mr Hewitt said police resources were not ‘limitless’ and officers continued to prioritise their work, adding that it was ‘really, really important’ that people followed the Government guidance.

People have been ordered to stay at home and only leave for essential reasons such as to go the doctors or do a food shop. Gathering for the purpose of a protest is not an exemption under the rules.

London has the highest coronavirus rate in England and there are fears health services in the capital are at breaking point.

The Met said Londoners should expect to be fined, rather than ‘reasoned with’ if they break regulations such as not wearing masks in public places and attending large gatherings like parties.

Fines for breaking Covid rules start at £200 for any first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000. 

A statement from the Met said: ‘Although officers will still apply the 4 E’s approach of engaging, explaining, and encouraging – only then enforcing, the Met has issued refreshed instructions to officers to issue fines more quickly to anyone committing obvious, wilful and serious breaches.’

It added people should not expect just the organisers of large events to be fined – it will also be attendees.

Londoners were also warned to expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why people are out, as there are now only a limited number of ‘reasonable excuses’ why people are allowed to leave their homes.

The Met will also work with businesses and councils across London to ensure people are following the strict lockdown rules in both public spaces and retail areas.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Source: Read Full Article