Fringe Box



Chief Constable Clarifies New Guidelines to Govern Behaviour During Lockdown

Published on: 15 May, 2020
Updated on: 17 May, 2020

Chief Constable Gareth Stephens briefing local media

by Martin Giles

Police are now handing responsibility back to the communities to check compliance with the new Coronavirus guidelines, Surrey’s chief constable has said.

CC Gavin Stephens added that he felt the guidelines were clear despite public criticism by some senior police officers in other parts of the UK and he warned Surrey residents that travelling to second homes was still against the rules.

Mr Stephens and his deputy, Nev Kemp, were addressing the media during Surrey Police’s third online press call.

In the briefing, the residents were thanked for their cooperation in staying at home and saving lives. Mr Stephens encouraged them to continue to be responsible and keep their communities safe.

With the changes of the regulations, officers will follow the four Es, by engaging with the public, explaining what they should be doing, encouraging them to do the right thing then enforcing if necessary.

Mr Kemp said since the lockdown started, there have been 313 enforcement Fixed Penalty Notices issued in Surrey. But the number has been dropping and last week (ending May 10) only 31 were issued.

Those people had refused to comply despite explanation and encouragement from police officers. Most were young men, some of whom had been drinking.

Police had also been called to breaches of the rules including where groups were taking food to consume in pub gardens in Burpham and Guildford town.

The Chief Constable said: “Following the Prime Minister’s message on Sunday, May 10, our approach towards policing to keep people safe will not change. We will continue to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules, using enforcement as a last resort.

“The Prime Minister announced some changes towards modifying the lockdown measures in England as part of a phased approach over the coming months. They included unlimited outdoor activities for people from within the same household from Wednesday (May 13) and an increase in the value of Fixed Penalty Notices for those who continue to breach regulations.”

New Coronavirus Guidelines – click on image to enlarge

There has been an expansion to the reasonable excuses, and business openings, under the amendments to mean people can:

  • Collect goods from a business permitted to remain open (click and collect) and visit recycling centres, garden centres and outdoor sport courts;
  • Take part in activity associated with the sale or letting of residential property, including visiting estate agents and attending house viewings;
  • Visit public open spaces alone for recreation to promote their physical, mental or emotional wellbeing;
  • Visit public open spaces with ONE member of another household for the above purpose or, as previously, alone or with members of their household; and
  • Take exercise with ONE member of another household or, as previously, alone or with members of their household.

New Coronavirus Guidelines – click on image to enlarge

The following activities are not in the list of examples of reasonable excuses:

  • To go on holiday. This includes to visit and stay overnight at a holiday home or second home;
  • To visit the homes of friends and family (exceptions include to protect a vulnerable person, for medical purposes or to escape risk of harm);
  • Travelling to outdoor spaces in Wales and Scotland for recreation (not exercise) may result in offences being committed in those jurisdictions, and so may not be a reasonable excuse for leaving home; and
  • Gatherings of three or more people (from different households) are not permitted.

CC Stephens added: “It’s important to stress that officers can only enforce Health Protection Regulations. Government guidance such as two-metre distancing, avoiding public transport or the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces is not enforceable.

“People are still not allowed to leave or be outside of their homes without a reasonable excuse. The Government has updated the list of examples of reasonable excuses, but officers’ judgement and discretion are key to our approach to engage, explain, and encourage.

“The efforts of our communities in Surrey over the past few weeks have meant police officers have rarely had to take enforcement action during the thousands of interactions they have had with the public.”

One spin-off benefit to the police has been the ability to operate against criminals whose movements have become more obvious during the lockdown. “There have been some brilliant drugs and cash seizures.”

He concluded: “I’d like to thank our communities for helping to save lives and as many of us are now able to spend much more time outdoors, each of us needs to take responsibility for doing that within the restrictions set out by the Government”.


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