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COVID-19: New police powers come into effect to protect the public

26 Mar 2020
  • New powers came into effect today.

  • They are designed to help stop the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

  • Officers will be engaging with members of the public to explain the advice.

New police enforcement powers have been granted by the government today (Thursday 26 March), to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives.

From today, if members of the public do not comply with government advice to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel, the Constabulary’s officers may:

• Instruct them to go home, leave an area or disperse
• Ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules
• Issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
• Issue a fixed penalty notice of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence.

Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice under the regulations could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where deemed proportionate and necessary.

However, in the first instance the police will always apply their common sense and discretion and seek to Engage, Explain and Encourage. Where individuals refuse to comply, or repeatedly breach the legislation, our officers are ready to enforce the regulations as the public would expect us to do.

Hertfordshire’s Chief Constable Charlie Hall said: “This is a public health emergency and compliance with these measures is considered necessary to achieve the objective of effective social distancing. 

“We have all heard the scientific advice which clearly states this will slow the spread of the virus and save people’s lives.

“The constabulary urges self-compliance within all Hertfordshire’s communities. Officers and staff will encourage all citizens to do so, remind those who we see in public who we believe may not be following them to do so, and only resort to enforcement action as a last resort.

“If we all work at this together we will slow the spread, save more lives and enable us to return to normality sooner.”

Individuals will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

• Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
• One form of exercise a day - for example, a run, walk or cycle - alone or with members of their household
• Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
• Travelling to and from work, but only where they cannot work from home.

Participating in gatherings of more than two people in public spaces is also not permitted except in very limited circumstances, for example, where it is for essential work purposes. Full guidance can be found here.

Members of the public should continue to call 999 in an emergency where a crime is in progress or there is a threat to life.

If your call is not urgent, we would urge people to make use of our online reporting service or our online webchat facility wherever possible, in order to release the pressure on our emergency lines and resources.

If you are seeking advice around COVID-19 and what it means for you, please visit the Government’s website in the first instance. This will enable our call takers and officers to focus purely on policing matters and ensure resources are being utilised effectively.

If you want to report a case of COVID-19, please visit the NHS website for advice.

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