Harsher fines - but will they be easy to dish out? Police will find it 'incredibly difficult' to enforce 'halfway house between lockdown and freedom,' says commissioner

Harsher fines for people breaking lockdown rules will be “incredibly difficult” to enforce amid confusion over the government’s latest coronavirus guidance, a North East police boss has warned.

Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 6:18 pm

Kim McGuinness has slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Sunday night address in which he revealed some relaxation of the lockdown – allowing people in England to go outside for as long as they like and telling some people to go back to work.

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Repeated lockdown breachers could now face fines of up to £3,200 as Government a...

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) says that officers will struggle to enforce rules in a “halfway house between lockdown and freedom”.

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Police have a new set of rules to work from when enforcing the lockdown

Fines will rise from £60 to £100 in England from Wednesday 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.

Ms McGuinness said: “We have started the week with needless confusion and more questions than answers.

“If the PM had just gone to Parliament today [Monday], announced his changes and published the full 50-page guidance at the same time, we would hopefully have had far greater clarity.

“Instead, we had a prime time speech that caused widespread confusion. People don’t know which workplaces are meant to open or when. They don’t know how many family members you can meet or where they can meet them.

PCC Kim McGuinness

“And we don’t know what this means for our schools and our young people.

“The PM brought about this confusion then said he will be increasing fines for those breaking the rules. As things stand, it is going to be very difficult to enforce those rules, and we need urgent clarity.”

In guidance published on Monday, the government confirmed that people in England can now exercise outside as often as they want, spend time outdoors with one person from outside their household while observing social distancing measures, and drive to outdoor open spaces “irrespective of distance”.

The PCC added: “I have spoken today to the policing minister, who defended the guidance as workable. As it stands, this is categorically not the case. This halfway house between lockdown and freedom will be incredibly difficult to enforce unless the Government gets its acts together.

“If we have a further rise in Covid cases, people will look back at the PM’s announcement and rightly feel that responsibility lies in Downing Street.”

The government guidance stated that the higher fines would be imposed “to reflect the increased risk to others of breaking the rules as people are returning to work and school”.

It adds: “The Government will seek to make clearer to the public what is and is not allowed.”

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