Police officers facing 'serious challenges' enforcing 'loose' lockdown rules in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has warned officers are facing “serious challenges” in enforcing the new lockdown rules as hunkered-down households head to beauty spots for the first time in weeks.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 21st May 2020, 7:00 am

Julia Mulligan said although the government’s move to relax restrictions was a “clear” one, it created concern amongst officers who were stripped of powers to enforce social distancing.

And while the new rules make it legal for households to travel anywhere in England, Mrs Mulligan said it can be difficult for police to prove if they do – or don’t – live together.

“The new law is clear in who you are allowed to go outside with, but actually determining if people are from the same household is quite challenging,” she said.

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Stock image. JPI Media.

“And if people are gathering in the manifest itself of going to the same place by chance – or deliberately – that also presents challenges.”

In Wales two-metre distancing is enforceable and members of the public can only visit a public space for exercise – whereas in England it is not, and people can spend unlimited time outside for other purposes.

The body that represents rank-and-file police officers had warned the relaxed lockdown guidance risks being a set of “loose rules that are left open to interpretation.”

John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “As the country gradually exits lockdown, these guidelines and laws are going to keep shifting so there must be continuous, clear and unambiguous messaging throughout the entire process.

“However, this does not make the job of our colleagues policing the borders any simpler. Wales and Scotland have not adopted the same approach and will cause huge problems for our members, particularly when people travel across borders to exercise where there are differences in the regulations.”

The new rules mean two people from different households in England can meet outdoors.

But people can’t visit friends or relatives in their houses or indoors.

Activities such as golf, angling and tennis are permitted, but only alone, with members of your household or with one other person from another household.

People who can’t work from home are being encouraged to travel to their work if it is open. However, they should avoid public transport where possible.

Fines have risen from £60 to £100 in England for anyone who police believe is breaching restrictions on movement during the lockdown – doubling for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

Mrs Mulligan said: “Our basic principles of operating have not changed – and that is based around the four E’s approach; engage, explain, encourage and enforce, which is always a last resort.”