Northumbria Police have confirmed they will look to ‘engage’ and ‘encourage’ the public to follow stay-at-home restrictions – but where necessary will take firmer action.
Government legislation was passed this week that granted police new powers to enforce the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) and save lives.
It means officers across the country will now have the power to issue £60 fines to individuals who ignore the request to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel.
The new measures have been put in place to protect the NHS and save lives and officers have said they will use the powers when necessary and appropriate.
Assistant Chief Constable Helen McMillan said officers will look to ‘engage’ and ‘encourage’ the public to follow guidance, with ‘enforcement’ a last resort.
She said: “We pride ourselves on the fantastic relationships we have formed in our community and now more than ever we need you to work with us.
“These are unprecedented times and we need a unified approach to prevent the spread of the virus so we can protect the NHS and ultimately save people’s lives.
“We know people have a lot of questions about these new restrictions but the message from Government is a simple one – please stay at home.
“Too many people are continuing to ignore the measures put in place to keep us all safe and that is why we have been granted powers to enforce them.
“Our policy will always be one of engaging and encouraging people to follow the restrictions and we resolve issues every single day by talking to members of the public.
“There may be some cases where you need to leave the house for essential travel and our officers will show common sense when engaging with the public.
“However, if people put lives at risk by refusing to comply with our instruction then we will enforce this legislation - we believe that is something you would expect of us.”
Members of the public have been contacting police in recent days to ask a number of questions about the new restrictions and how they will be enforced.
Northumbria Police have said they won’t be holding regular traffic stops or conducting roadblocks – but if during the course of patrols officers become aware of someone making a non-essential journey, they will be asked to return home.
Officers will also be checking areas which would normally attract visitors to ensure people are abiding by the restrictions and also leaving notices on cars to remind the public of the new measures.
Assistant Chief Constable McMillan added: “The most frequently asked question we have had is whether you can drive somewhere to exercise or walk your dog.
“Under the new legislation this is not considered to be essential travel and we will ask people to return home. Anyone who refuses does face being issued with a fine.
“Exercise should take place around the immediate area of where you live so we can all help mitigate against the spread of the infection. People should not be travelling away from their home to carry this out.
“We have had large crowds of people at our coastal areas in recent days and that is not helpful and could ultimately be putting lives at risk.
“This is a national health emergency and a walk at the beach is not worth risking lives. We all need to work together to help protect the NHS and keep each other safe.”
The new legislation passed this week gives officers the power to issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
A fixed penalty notice of £120 will be issued to 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.
Further information about the restrictions, including a list of key workers and what is considered essential travel, can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
The public are asked not to contact police to ask about the restrictions, or potential punishments, as we will not be able to provide any further detail than what is available on that website.
Anyone who needs to speak to police is asked to only do this online by searching ‘Northumbria Police – Report an Incident’ or ‘Northumbria Police – Tell Us Something’ online.
Always dial 999 in an emergency.