Priti Patel orders police to get tough on Covid rulebreakers

Priti Patel orders police to get tough on Covid rulebreakers: Home Secretary ramps up enforcement saying those who ‘flout the law’ must not be allowed to ‘endanger the majority’

  • Priti Patel told police chiefs they must ‘strengthen enforcement’ of Covid rules
  • Ms Patel said rule breaking minority must not be allowed to ‘endanger’ majority
  • She said police had been given more powers and resources and now must act 

Priti Patel today ordered police chiefs to ramp up their enforcement of coronavirus restrictions as she warned the rule-breaking minority must not be allowed to ‘endanger’ the ‘law-abiding majority’. 

The Home Secretary acknowledged that police officers have been ‘working flat out’ during the pandemic. 

But she said the Government had provided forces with more resources and more powers and it is now time to ‘strengthen enforcement’ against people who ‘flout the rules’. 

Her comments came as England prepares to be plunged into a nationwide lockdown from Thursday. 

Boris Johnson has stressed in recent days that compliance with the Government’s Covid-19 rules will determine the effectiveness of the national shutdown. 

Ms Patel told a meeting of the National Policing Board that Mr Johnson ‘has been clear that he wants to see tougher enforcement’ of the measures. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel today ordered police chiefs to strengthen enforcement of coronavirus rules

Addressing the meeting, which takes place four times a year to scrutinise the progress of the 20,000 police recruitment campaign and other policing matters, she said: ‘As our nation battles to suppress coronavirus I am acutely aware that we are asking more from our outstanding officers, and that they have been working flat out to keep people safe.

‘But the Prime Minister has been clear that he wants to see tougher enforcement of the necessary restrictions in order to save lives.

‘We have played our part – strengthening and simplifying the rules to make it easier for officers to act and providing an extra £60 million for enforcement, with £30 million going direct to the police.

‘We have empowered and resourced you to do more, and we now need you to strengthen enforcement, and that the law-abiding majority are not endangered by those who flout the rules. 

‘I want to thank all of you for the contributions you have made in working through the new restrictions.’

She also said it is ‘crucial’ as the second national lockdown approaches that police look to use all powers available to them to tackle what she called ‘hidden harms’, like stalking, slavery and trafficking, sexual offences and domestic violence.

Ms Patel’s intervention came as police chiefs warned that people who ignore coronavirus rules should be prepared to ‘face the consequences of greater levels of enforcement’.

In an open letter, the chief constables of five forces in the north west of the country said they will ‘collectively target’ the minority of the public who flout the measures by holding large gatherings, music events and parties. 

The message from the forces covering Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside comes after a period of tightened restrictions for much of the North West due to high numbers of Covid-19 cases.

Strict new rules are due to be rolled out for the whole of England from one minute after midnight on Thursday, as a new lockdown comes into force.

In their letter, the senior officers said they had seen first hand ‘the misery the pandemic has caused’ but had received ‘great support from the majority of our communities’.

They said their forces had taken a ‘very measured’ approach to enforcement and used a model of ‘engage, explain, encourage and only as a last resort, enforce’ in relation to issuing fines.

‘Sadly we have seen a minority right across the North West who seem incapable of demonstrating any civic responsibility and complying with regulations,’ the chief constables added.

They said the public wanted a ‘consistent and robust’ approach to enforcement and that the introduction of local restrictions had seen forces take a ‘firmer stance’ over restrictions and move more quickly to issue fixed penalty notices.

Ahead of a second national lockdown, they urged the public to continue complying with Covid-19 related rules.

They wrote: ‘We know how hard this is, but we need to maintain that shared purpose we had in the first lockdown to defeat the virus and, ultimately, save lives.

Addressing potential rule breakers, the chief constables added: ‘To the minority who feel the restrictions don’t apply to them be prepared to face the consequences of greater levels of enforcement.’   

The police have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to people who break coronavirus rules, with fines starting at £200 and rising to £6,400.

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