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West Midlands Police Federation

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Confusion over new guidelines will make officers’ jobs even harder

13 May 2020

The confusion and lack of clarity surrounding the Government’s plans for an easing of lockdown will just make police officers’ jobs even harder, says the chair of West Midlands Police Federation.

Jon Nott says the different approaches being taken in England, Wales and Scotland will only complicate matters further.

“The Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Sunday evening seems to have given rise to more questions than answers and I am not sure Boris Johnson’s comments in the House of Commons yesterday really gave us the clarity we need to be able to effectively police and protect our communities,” says Jon.

“Throughout this crisis police officers have been on the front-line, upholding the legislation but also working within the four Es of engage, explain, encourage and enforce. But these new guidelines are simply not clear enough and that is going to make the challenging role of policing at this time even more difficult.”

The new guidance says people can:

  • Exercise outside as many times a day as they want - although a limit on the number of exercise sessions has never been enforced by law in England previously
  • Spend time outdoors, other than for exercise, as long as they are not meeting up with more than one person from outside their household while observing social distancing measures by keeping two metres apart, and continuing to wash their hands regularly
  • Drive to outdoor open spaces ‘irrespective of distance’ as long as they observe social distancing rules when there, and do not travel over borders to other parts of the UK where rules are different. Previously, the public were urged not to travel long distances to visit beaches, countryside and beauty spots.

No other specific examples of scenarios where members of the public would be considered to be flouting the rules, and therefore liable for fines, were provided.

Under the new guidelines, fines for people flouting the rules will increase to £100 from tomorrow, lowered to £50 if paid within two weeks, and will double for each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 will be updated from tomorrow to reflect the changes coming into effect.

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has called on the Government to provide ‘crystal clear’ guidance for police officers.

Speaking to Sky News yesterday, he said: “Some of the sensational headlines in recent days have caused many of the people who we deal with to believe that the lockdown ended. We hear people say [social distancing] ‘it’s about common sense’ but some of the people we deal with don’t use common sense, so the guidance has got to be crystal clear.”

He also called for clarity around when it would be appropriate for officers to issue fines to those breaching social distancing.

“I can tell you my colleagues will not be issued with tape measures to check two metre distances. It’s about policing by consent and issuing fines is a last resort. I need to understand why we are doing that because when you increase the level of fine, that could cause greater conflict with the people you’re dealing with,” John explained.

Read the Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy


September 2020