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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Policing the pandemic has brought challenges not before seen in our democracy

11 January 2021

Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chairman Andy Berry says officers will continue to strive to police by consent during the latest lockdown restrictions - but is urging the public not to ‘push the boundaries’.

Andy said: “Policing this pandemic has brought challenges to law enforcement unseen in our democracy. The officers I represent police Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with the consent of the people who live there and who visit, enforcing laws that an elected Parliament have established and doing so with discretion. 

“This discretion was underpinned in a famous speech by the then Attorney General, Lord Shawcross, back in the 1950s who in effect said that just because doing something was technically a crime the police should always have the discretion not to deal with it. 

“We have until now been able to work with, for the most part, laws which are relatively straightforward and supported unanimously by the public, such as don’t steal, don’t drink drive, don’t kill anyone. 

“The public are happy to support the police in enforcing these laws which protect them. However, this consent from the public starts to waiver a little when it suddenly interferes with things that they have, by right, been able to do all their lives. 

“Simple things like visiting elderly relatives or spending time with friends; these aren’t ‘criminal things’, and they are not ‘bad people’ but suddenly the state, the police, are curtailing their freedoms. 

“Aggravating this are laws which are complex, unclear or woolly and perhaps seen as inconsistent. Such as the definition of what is ‘local’. 

“The overwhelming number of interactions and decisions by officers are fair and taken in the spirit of protecting the public, protecting the nation from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“So whilst my colleagues across Devon & Cornwall will still be focussing on educating and encouraging the public to comply with the legislation and guidance, they will not shy away from enforcement where they must.”

Andy added: “There are two things which I think will make everybody’s life easier.

“To the public, please go about your business in the spirit of the law, you know what it is, and don’t look for the loopholes or try to push the boundaries.

“To the Government, please work harder to be clear and consistent with the legislation, so people are in no doubt about the expectations of them.”