Coronavirus crisis: What Atherstone and residents need to know about new police powers

  Posted: 27.03.20 at 20:46 by Nick Hudson

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POLICE officers across Atherstone and North Warwickshire with newly-acquired dispersal powers are planning to make it “E-asy” on communities to adhere to social distancing guidance as coronavirus impacts on civil liberties.

The town and rural force is adopting a four phase engagement through to enforcement approach after the Government brought in extra regulations yesterday under the Health Regulations 2020 which include fixed penalties affecting groups of “two or more” congregating in a public place.

For the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak, local residents can expect to see patrolling officers “out and about” in towns and villages making sure people are complying with the law.

Warwickshire Police insists the public “should not be offended” if approached by an officer and asked about the purpose of their journey.

Under guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing, the four-part regulations involve:
- Engage, where officers will initially encourage voluntary compliance;
- Explain, where officers will point out the restrictions and stress the risks to public health and the NHS;
- Encourage, where officers will emphasize the benefits to the NHS of staying at home and how this can lives; and
- Enforce, and finally, if they have to, direct individuals or groups to return to the place where they live. This may involve advising the best route and may require taking a person to where they live “using reasonable force where it is necessary and proportionate means of ensuring compliance”.

Enforcement will be a last resort, according to the police chiefs and Collegew.

Assistant Chief Constable Alex Franklin-Smith said he has been out conducting patrols in the community and it “great to see” so many people observing #StayHomeSaveLives.

What do the new powers laid out by the Government and Public Health England mean for you?

• Police will be able to disperse groups of more than two people from any public place;
• Groups of more than two people – who live in the same household – are permitted;
• Anyone who refuses to disperse will be given a £60 fixed penalty notice, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days;
• Second time offenders will be issued with a £120 fixed penalty notice - this will then double on each further repeat offence;
• Anyone who does not pay a fixed penalty notice under the new regulations could be taken to court, where magistrates will be able to impose unlimited fines; and
• Anyone who refuses to comply will be acting unlawfully and may be arrested, but only if it is deemed proportionate and necessary.

Assistant Chief Constable Debra Tedds said: “ We know things are moving quickly with Covid-19, so we’ve worked with the College of Police to explain what the new regulations actually mean, and how the police might deal with those who do not comply. “

A force spokesman concluded: “It’s everyone’s responsibility to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Police Federation of England and Wales chairman John Apter said the public could expect further emergency laws if the Government's current measures are ignored.

Those who flouted the restrictions could face more than fines if they persisted with their behaviour, said Mr Apter.

The PFEW chairman added: "If you don't heed this government's advice, then it is likely further steps may need to be taken; further laws and emergency legislation could be introduced to clamp down harder on selfishness in the face of the fight against this virus."

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