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Covid Regulations Require Public Compliance Not Police Enforcement Says Police Chief

Published on: 26 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 26 Sep, 2020

Chief Constable Gavin Stephens

Those not wearing masks in shops should be reported to shop staff, remembering that some groups are exempt. This was the advice of Surrey’s Chief Constable this week in the wake of government announcements of tighter restrictions adding: “Shops can choose who to admit and not to admit.”

But he was forthright in admitting that there was little the police could do to enforce the new “Rule of 6”. He said it depended on high levels public compliance which Surrey residents had displayed earlier in the year: “We need to get back to community effort.”

And those observing possible breaches by their neighbours should first of all speak to them, if they felt it was safe to do so, before making a report.

David Munro

The Police and Crime Commissioner, David Munro reinforced the plea for public co-operation which in his view was vital to combat the spread of the virus.

But enforcement should remain the last resort, Mr Munro added, warning anyone who continued to break the rules or refused to comply with officers could face the full force of police powers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said fines for breaching Covid-19 restrictions are doubling to £200 and pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm as part of stricter measures.

The official face mask exemption card.

So far, Surrey Police have been successfully following the four E approach to dealing with any breach, Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce. Officers will try to engage with someone, explain how they are breaking the rules, and encourage them to change their behaviour to reduce the risk to public safety and health.

If people still do not stick to the rules, police can order them to disperse, tell parents to stop their children breaking the rules or issue a fine. If someone continues to ignore the instructions, they face arrest if officers think it proportionate and necessary.

The PCC went on: “There will undoubtedly be an extra strain on resources over the coming week and months but Surrey Police are well-prepared and will continue to work together with our partners and the county’s residents during this difficult time.

“Nobody wants to see tighter restrictions on our way of life but we are at a critical stage where the number of cases is starting to rise again. We must all play our part and take personal responsibility in trying halt the spread of the virus and avoid another complete lockdown.

“So far, the response of most of the Surrey people has been excellent and I repeat my thanks to them for their continued support and discipline in sticking to the rules. That ongoing co-operation will be absolutely key to making sure our officers can do their job and police by consent over the coming weeks.”

At a press briefing on Monday (September 21) CC Stephens said that only one fixed penalty notice had been served by the police to someone refusing to wear a face covering.

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