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The new Coronavirus policing powers that could see people getting fined or arrested

Police are being given extra powers to enforce the Coronavirus lockdown. Credit: PA

In his address to the nation last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announced a UK lockdown to prevent the Coronavirus spread.

Speaking after a Cobra meeting, he said that people are now only allowed to leave their homes to visit food shops for basic necessities, to seek medical help and to travel to and from essential work that can not be completed from home. He added that one form of outdoor exercise was also permitted per day.

So how will these measures be enforced?

Social distancing:

Under Boris Johnson’s plan, police will get new powers to break up gatherings of more than two people in public. They will not, however, be expected to stop people leaving their homes altogether. Social events such as weddings and baptisms will be stopped - although funerals will continue.

Fines:

Police will be able to fine people if they ignore the rules. In his speech, Mr Johnson said: “If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.” It's believed that fines would start at £30 but the government has warned that the amount will be 'ramped up' if there is widespread flouting of the rules. The move is in-line with other European counties, including France , where police officers have been given powers to hand out fines ranging from €135 to €3,700 to anyone caught leaving their home for a reason other than shopping, commuting or exercise. Similar rules also apply in Belgium.

Arrests:

Police will be given powers to arrest and isolate people to protect public health, under emergency coronavirus legislation set out by the Government. The Emergency Coronavirus Billwill give ministers the powers they say they need to respond to the threat of the virus and support the NHS. They include other measures such as allowing the Border Force to suspend operations at airports or transport hubs if there are insufficient resources to ensure security, and the greater use of video hearings in court cases.

On the first day of the measures, police in the Midlands have already had to break-up at least one mass gathering.

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Police forces across the Midlands are supporting the new measures. Derbyshire Police said the guidance is clear.

"As a force we not only support that statement but are ready and willing to take any necessary action – but we anticipate that the majority of people will adhere to the guidelines and ensure that they are followed by friends and family. Officers will be out on patrol, however, where people witness clear and obvious breaches of these guidelines they should be passed to the force via a private message on Facebook or direct message Twitter which can then be allocated to officers."

– Derbyshire Police

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In order to bolster the ranks of those able to respond to incidents the force has redeployed officers from certain areas of the force in order to ensure that there is resilience to meet the demands over the coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile, West Midlands Police says its officers are working every hour of every day to keep people safe.

"I want to assure you that my officers and staff will continue to work every hour of every day to keep you safe. We will protect you. That is our duty and that is my promise to you. But this is my ask of you. I urge the people of the West Midlands to follow the new instructions. They are essential and it will save lives. Nothing is more important."

– Dave Thompson, Chief Constable, West Midlands Police

Officers and PCSOs will be visible in communities and they will be talking to people to:

  • Make it clear we are dealing with a national health emergency
  • Reinforce the importance of complying with these new measures
  • Strongly encourage people to adhere to them at all times
  • Reinforce that the measures are there to protect our country and in particular the vulnerable
  • Ask that you do not buy more food than you need. We need to look after each other.

If people do not listen, the force says it will "move to enforcement".

All police forces are asking people to sensible when reporting large gatherings. They are urging people to prioritise the 'most probematic' behaviour and contact them via webchat or 101.