Police given new guidance on enforcing coronavirus lockdown after backlash

Support us and go ad-free

Police forces have been told people should not be punished for travelling a “reasonable distance” to exercise following criticism of heavy-handed tactics used to enforce the Covid-19 lockdown.

The new guidance, issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing on Tuesday night, also states road checks on every vehicle are “disproportionate”.

It comes after Derbyshire Police faced a backlash for filming walkers with drones to deter visitors to the Peak District, while North Yorkshire Police stopped motorists at “checkpoints” last week.

The new guidance states: “Use your judgement and common sense; for example, people will want to exercise locally and may need to travel to do so, we don’t want the public sanctioned for travelling a reasonable distance to exercise.

“Road checks on every vehicle is equally disproportionate. We should reserve enforcement only for individuals who have not responded to engage, explain, and encourage, where public health is at risk.”

Police have been told to be “consistent” when using new powers brought in after the government introduced social distancing measures last week.

People can only leave their homes to go shopping for basic necessities and medicines, to exercise, or to go to work if their job cannot be done from home.

Officers can fine or even arrest those flouting the rules under legislation enacted last Thursday.

But comments from government ministers have sometimes gone beyond the scope of the law, leading to potential confusion.

Some forces, including Derbyshire, said on Tuesday they had not used the new powers once, while Lancashire Police issued 123 fines for breaches of the rules over the weekend.

The guidance, which has been updated since it was originally sent to forces last week, said policing should be “by consent” with the initial response to “encourage voluntary compliance”.

It says: “There is no power to ‘stop and account’. The police will apply the law in a system that is flexible, discretionary and pragmatic.

“This will enable officers to make sensible decisions and employ their judgement. Enforcement should be a last resort.”

Police speak to drivers at Tynemouth beach
Police speak to drivers at Tynemouth beach (Owen Humphreys/PA)

It comes after Derbyshire Police Chief Constable Peter Goodman defended using drone footage to deter people driving for walks in the Peak District.

He said he had wanted to start a “conversation” after elderly residents were left “frightened to death” following an influx of visitors the previous weekend.

Former High Court judge Lord Sumption said the move “shamed our policing traditions” but Goodman said: “I know it’s caused controversy.

“I regret that the reputation of Derbyshire Constabulary has been hit a bit through this, but I don’t regret what’s happened as a consequence because I think lives will be saved.”

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson said in a series of tweets on Tuesday that claims that Britain is becoming a “police state” are “widely off the mark”.

“I think the public are trying to stick to this, which they are, and I think the general comments that have been made by experts and people, they just need to cut us a little bit of slack at the moment, it’s pretty tough,” he said

Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Ironic, really, stopping people going out when soon the police could be forcing people into work. William Hague actually said something similar a few years after Blair got into power. He said the unemployed should be forced to work, and we could send the police round their homes to ensure they go in. If they proposed that for people who had no job but had work, it’s no stretch of the imagination to think that to protect the economy or to supply vital industries we can end up where the police impose forced labour.

      1. This isn’t a dig at you, I enjoyed your post, and it made me think about an area (police forcing people to work) that I hadn’t considered before.

        What’s ironic is that by getting police officers to stop and engage with citizens, they themselves are acting like they are immune from infection, and immune from infecting others too.

        If/When someone tries to avoid them are they going to give chase, wrestle the person to the ground or drag them from their car? What then if the person in/on a vehicle, or clearly was making every effort to stay away from everyone else, was unknowingly infected, when leaving them alone would ensure no cross contamination?

        I fail to see the problem with me in my full leathers, gloves, boots, anti-pollution face mask and helmet, riding a motorcycle all across The UK as long as I stay clear of other people.

        That gear, whilst not foolproof against any virus, drastically reduces the chances of infection or cross-infection, and as long as I fill up using my card at a machine or barrier equipped fuel station, I present little risk to anyone, and as long as social-distancing is followed, I see no issue with other vehicles either. I use my motorcycling as an example, because it comes with kit even NHS staff would most likely rather wear than nothing.

        Social-distancing makes sense, but leaving NHS staff without protection and regular tests, giving Police ridiculous and ill-thought out powers without regular tests, and stop-checks for vehicles, actually increase the risk of cross-infection. Dare one say it even makes police an easy target for it, which is myopic to say the least.

        As a theoretical example, an extremely bored, self-isolating person decides that they need to at least see different scenery in order to stay sane, and so responsibly goes for a ride/drive with no intent to visit anyone, and maintains good social-distancing (on/in a moving vehicle is just about the best form of self-isolation).

        That person then comes across a road-block whereby they are required to show their face (helmets off or up for bikers, windows down for others) to police officers. An argument ensues because the rider/driver knows they haven’t put anyone else at risk until they were stopped, and in the exchange either the rider/driver or the police officer/s get heated enough that either spittle flies (I know I am not the only one who’s involuntarily tasted someone else’s spittle when they get excited or passionate about something), or physical contact ensues.

        In one instance, it is the Police Officer/s that get infected, in another it is the rider/driver, and in the worst case, all of them get infected. What is clear in this scenario is that no one would have gotten infected if the police had not put up roadblocks to check why someone is driving/riding.

        Because of this, it is clear to me that setting up roadblocks, and instructing the police to intervene more than usual in other people’s travels, brings a much greater risk to the Police and public, particularly if there are fines to be made.

        Also, the worry I have is that if the situation gets any worse, those who have been aggravated by police actions, and who may be mentally unstable and have Covid-19 (or any other dangerous viral/bacterial condition), may deliberately target police with the intent to ‘punish’ them by infecting them.

        Any organisation that employs large numbers of humans like the military, police, NHS etc., runs greater than normal risks through panic-station-thinking. If the MSM hadn’t fuelled (and still is) panic, then people wouldn’t have panic-bought, which in turn would mean we all went on as normal with more thought about how we interact with each other, which in turn would mean supplies still being on shelves in plentiful supply, which in turn would mean no need to shut down industry and business, which would mean that whilst we would be careful with our health, we could go on pretty much unaffected.

        Sadly, Western governments have utterly squandered opportunities even though they said back in 2001 they were changing the system to prepare for such contingencies. Those contingencies resulted in 9/11 and 7/7, and three viral outbreaks later, we still don’t have a national plan whereby everyone knows what’s expected of them, and whereby, and worse, they have reduced the efficacy, and increased the confusion, to such levels, that logic dictates we must consider the fact that this is deliberate, and has been deliberate policy since the changing of the Century.

        Just from a British point of view, I remember being raised in a country that shrugged off IRA attacks because to react badly, or to show fear and panic, was to hand the enemy victory. I distinctly remember both Government and the BBC telling us this, and to keep a stiff British upper lip.

        The new Century, and this ridiculous New World Order has all but enshrined fear and panic into our daily lives since, turning everyone against everyone, making a mockery of wisdom and our ancestral gains, and turning good into bad, and bad into good.

        It is blindingly obvious to me, and very painfully at that, that we have been manipulated to fear more than ever, people of different races, packages, suspicious behaviour, each other, and that we are no longer encouraged to have a stiff British upper lip to thwart the plans of our enemies, but the very opposite, so that our enemies may be further emboldened, and encouraged to greater atrocities (many of which involve the removal of our human rights by proxy).

        This is all done to decimate economies around the world, so that corporate overlords may take full control of Earth, so that they may abolish Human rights, Democracy, and decency for ever.

        The wealth has been cascading from the public sectors of the world into private coffers at an obscene and alarming rate, just as similarly occurred before the two last World Wars (arguably this is a pattern repeated throughout the ages), and this I think is because the stupendously rich and powerful (and I am not talking Trump or Boris or Putin here) like to have a cull and reset whenever they have a desire to change society for their purposes.

        Isn’t it telling that again we are seeing and hearing of increasing attacks against Jews, Muslims, Christians, Pensioners, sick people, the infirm, those of different sexual outlooks, those who argue against the established order, those who do not toe the line, and those who do not wish to partake in this orgy of vileness and self-destruction.

        Democracy is scorned even by those claiming to support it, organisations and Laws made to make for better International co-operation like the UN, have been, and are continuing to be maligned and undermined by the very nations who claim to be peace-loving and humanitarian, but who are actively involved in destabilising the entire planet for profit’s sake, not our species sake, not life’s sake, not the Planet’s sake, not even the Universe/Multiverse’s sake, just for uncontested power and the desire to control the lives of everyone else like a god.

        Is it irony, or is it reaping what we have already sown, and allowed to be sown?

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.