Coronavirus: Derbyshire Police admits force can't stop walkers

Elias Hubbard
April 1, 2020

Unlike other countries, forces in Britain "police by consent" and pride themselves on being answerable to the public and not the state.

Scotland Yard's Indian-origin lead for counter-terrorism policing, Neil Basu, on Tuesday made a plea for compassion as police officers adjust to the new realities of dealing with the current lockdown in place in the United Kingdom to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officers can fine or even arrest those flouting the rules under new legislation enacted last Thursday. Lancashire Police issued 123 enforcement notices over the weekend, while Cheshire Police reportedly summonsed six people for various offences, including travelling to purchase "non-essential" items.

Asked about Derbyshire police's decision to put black dye into the Blue Lagoon to deter people from the beauty spot, he acknowledged the NPCC was "looking at every incident" and said they were "responding" to the new measures and "adjusting" to the new measures.

Under the powers unveiled by Home Secretary Priti Patel last week, United Kingdom police is empowered to instruct members of the public to go home, leave an area or disperse and can issue a fixed penalty notice of 60 pound which would double with each repeat offence.

"Police chiefs have hit back over claims they are creating a "'police state" as they admitted they were "finding their way" and seeking a nationally "consistent" approach in enforcing the coronavirus lockdown.

But, he said: "I think there's a misinterpretation by him about what's going on".

"I will do everything possible to help protect the courageous men and women of the NHS - albeit with powers I never imagined a British police officer would be asked to use", Mr Basu writes in 'The Daily Telegraph".

"They were people who were behaving utterly recklessly and unreasonably".

Mr Hewitt said: "We are constantly trying to adjust the way we are policing".

Some police forces have been heavily criticised over recent days, with accusations levelled at officers that they are overreaching their powers.

"My advice to my force is we want to do this by consent, we want to do this by explanation and conversation".

He told PA: "The only time we have used the (enforcement) powers is where someone has been really violent and spat at our officers, and saying they have got Covid-19 and hoping the officers get it too".

Mr Basu urged officers to heed calls by two of Britain's most senior officers, Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Martin Hewitt, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), that "persuasion and education to do the right thing is our primary goal", rather than being too quick to impose punishments.

Radio 4's Today programme host Martha Kearney took a national police chief to task live on air this morning, amid criticism of policing tactics during the lockdown.

"The police are doing a hard job and they are doing it well", Transport Minister Grant Shapps told Sky News.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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