Public face police checks if spotted away from home during lockdown, Met warns

Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

People could be stopped by police to explain why they are away from home during the latest coronavirus lockdown, senior officers have warned.

The Metropolitan Police said the public should expect officers to be more “inquisitive” about why they are “out and about” during England’s third national lockdown.

Londoners breaching Covid legislation “are increasingly likely to face fines”, the force said in a statement, adding: “Londoners can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about.

“Where officers identify people without a lawful reason to be away from home they can expect officers to move more quickly to enforcement.”

The news came as the force said a woman who held a New Year’s Eve party for more than 100 people faces a £10,000 fine.

Officers on patrol discovered the event in Exhibition Road, Kensington, central London, when they spotted a large group trying to get in at around 11.30pm and the organiser refused to co-operate, the force said.

Acting Inspector Ganesh Rasaratnam, from the Met’s central west basic command unit, said: “The organiser, and those who attended, deliberately breached the restrictions and decided that the rules did not apply to them.”

Although officers will still apply the “4 Es” approach – engaging, explaining, encouraging and then enforcing – Scotland Yard said it had issued “refreshed instructions” to hand out fines “more quickly to anyone committing obvious, wilful and serious breaches” like those attending or organising parties or other large illegal gatherings.

People not wearing masks when they should be “and without good reason” can also expected to be “fined – not reasoned with”, the force warned.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Met’s response to the Covid pandemic, said: “After 10 months of this pandemic the number of people who are genuinely not aware of the restrictions and the reasons they are in place is vanishingly small.

“We know the overwhelming majority of Londoners will do the right thing by staying at home, wearing masks and not gathering, but a small minority continue to ignore rules put in place to protect the NHS and save lives.”

He warned that officers were “ready to act robustly” if people “continue to break the rules, putting themselves, their families and their communities at greater risk”, adding: “Action now by everyone will help reduce the time our capital must live with these restrictions and, crucially, will prevent more people from dying needlessly because of this virus.

“It’s up to us all to do the right thing.”

David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for England’s second biggest force, West Midlands Police, called for officers to be given powers to force entry into the homes of suspected coronavirus law breakers.

Earlier this week the Met’s Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said the latest lockdown would put “a lot of pressure” on officers in the capital as their numbers were already reduced while 1,300 were off sick or self-isolating.