Military as coronavirus marshals: How will the new Covid rules be policed?

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

The army would only be used to "backfill static police roles" during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the defence secretary has told ITV News.

Ben Wallace said: "Backfilling doesn't mean to say that our members of the Armed Forces are out there doing policing on the frontline."

His comments come as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned Britain could be plunged into a second national lockdown if new coronavirus restrictions are flouted.

Mr Wallace said that the Armed Forces will be used so that police can be freed up to do enforcement, before adding: "I don't think when it comes to enforcement we're in a place yet where we're actually required to get engaged."

Mr Wallace said: "Backfilling doesn't mean to say that our members of the Armed Forces are out there doing policing on the frontline, what it means is that our Armed Forces release police that are currently doing perhaps static duties so they can increase the frontline to deal with issues that are presented."

He added: "And terrorism, obviously, it's about public order and other issues."

"In Covid, it will be around public order and other issues of enforcement but that's for the police to do, what we can do is come in from behind and simply release them from other static duties to let them thicken the blue line."

Mr Wallace continued: "Our preference obviously is to make sure we are thickening civil response and that's what we do everyday and we stand ready to serve when requested."

"It's all about helping society get through this Covid outbreak."

Credit: PA

Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt has said there are no plans to have military personnel taking on frontline policing roles during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the Prime Minister’s comments that the military will be able to provide support to the police if necessary.

Mr Hewitt was also asked if this suggested police were not capable of doing their job.

He responded: "I don’t think it suggests that at all."

"We are now six months in and I think the service across the whole UK has stepped up during that six months to deal appropriately and deal really well with these unusual regulations and the situation we’re in."

He added: "The military had been involved with us throughout the Covid crisis, using their engineering skills, their logistics skills and we already have plans that allow the military to backfill into roles to release police officers in certain circumstances."

"We’re not in that situation now. But I think it is sensible to have those conversations and think about that plan."