Police could break up Covid rule-breakers’ Christmas dinners, a police and crime commissioner has warned.
West Midlands commissioner David Jamieson said officers would have to enforce any lockdown rules set by the Government over the festive period, as he also spoke of his fears of a “time bomb” of unrest.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Jamieson said: “If we think there’s large groups of people gathering where they shouldn’t be, then police will have to intervene.
“If, again, there’s flagrant breaking of the rules, then the police would have to enforce.
“It’s not the police’s job to stop people enjoying their Christmas.
“However, we are there to enforce the rules that the Government makes, and if the Government makes those rules then the Government has to explain that to the public.”
Mr Jamieson said he feared that “frustration” with any potential Christmas restrictions after months of Covid controls may also boil over into civil unrest and even riots.
“We’re sitting on a time bomb here,” he said.
“We’re getting very near the stage where you could see a considerable explosion of frustration and energy.
“Things are very on the edge in a lot of communities and it wouldn’t take very much to spark off unrest, riots, damage.”
His comments came before Environment Secretary George Eustice said it was “far too early” to set out guidelines about Christmas.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Cabinet minister said: “This is a rapidly developing situation and we are making judgments all the time about what restrictions might be needed and what’s appropriate to have as restrictions in a particular area.
“It’s far too early to say exactly where things will be by Christmas, but the Prime Minister’s made clear he wants people to be able to have a Christmas that’s as close to possible as normal.”
He said the Government would set out guidelines “based on the epidemiology of the virus” and “follow the science”.
The police have no power of entry under the Tier 2 (or 1 and 3) regulations. They would have to be invited into homes to exercise their power to disperse gatherings https://t.co/s0WTM5il2R
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) October 27, 2020
Mr Eustice added: “And that’s what we’re doing, and it’s too early I’m afraid to say exactly what the situation will be by Christmas, but we do understand people want to have a Christmas that’s as close as possible to normal and to meet family and to come together.
“It’s an important family occasion and we understand that and the PM’s clear he wants to try to support that.”
Chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) Martin Hewitt said it was “not very sensible” to speculate on what regulations would be in force by Christmas, because of the fast-moving situation.
He said: “We don’t know what regulations will be in place at any point going forward.
“When we do know those regulations, we will police the law to those regulations.”
Chief constable of Merseyside Police Andy Cooke, NPCC lead for crime, said: “It’s far too early to say what the situation will be in December, but any decision in relation to that will be made by the Chief Constable of West Midlands.”
Mr Jamieson’s comments came in for criticism from leading human rights lawyer Adam Wagner.
Responding on Twitter, Mr Wagner said: “The police have no power of entry under the Tier 2 (or 1 and 3) regulations.
“They would have to be invited into homes to exercise their power to disperse gatherings – or have a warrant.”