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Police chiefs admit they are not clear on how to enforce coronavirus lockdown after Boris Johnson's speech tonight

May 10, 2020

POLICE chiefs have reacted to Boris Johnson's coronavirus lockdown announcement tonight by admitting they are no longer clear on what people can and can't do.

The chairmen of both the Police Federation (PF) and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) issued separate statements which made it clear they needed further guidance from the Government on what the changes meant for the policing of the lockdown.

The Prime Minister's main changes announced tonight were that people can go outside multiple times in a day for exercise, instead of just once, and can sit and enjoy the sunshine in parks, provided it is only with members of their household.

People are also now allowed to drive to other areas before starting their exercise or park sitting or picnic sessions.

Mr Johnson also encouraged people to continue working from home, but those who cannot were told they can return to work if this is possible, but they should avoid public transport and try to walk or cycle there.

The news appears to have left police chiefs unsure on how they will police the lockdown if any of the rules are breached or who should be with who when they are outside.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, the union for police officers, said in a statement: "

“The Government has, as expected, made a decision to relax its lockdown guidance in England. This comes following a week of mixed messages and the release of some information which, fueled by media speculation, meant many people acted as though the lockdown had already ended. 

"This is putting extreme pressure on my colleagues who are on the frontline trying to enforce legislation in these most challenging of times.

 "What we need from the Prime Minister and the Government now is clear and unambiguous messaging and guidance, explaining what exactly is expected of the public, so that my colleagues can do their level best to police it.

“Police officers will continue to do their best, but their work must be based on crystal clear guidance, not loose rules that are left open to interpretation - because that will be grossly unfair on officers whose job is already challenging. 

"If the message of what is expected of the public is not clear then it will make the job of policing this legislation almost impossible.”

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the NPCC, said in a separate statement: "As restrictions and regulations change so does the police role. 

"As more details become clear, working closely with the College of Policing and the Home Office, we will review our current guidance, which supports officers and staff in policing the public health regulations. 

"The core British principle of policing by consent will continue to be at the heart of our approach.”

Police were already struggling to deal with policing the lockdown before Mr Johnson's announcement as more and more people have been coming outside and driving in response to warmer weather.

Police in Hackney, east London, tweeted images of a packed park on Saturday in which scores of people appeared to be sat together closer than two metres apart.

The tweet said: "Sadly we're fighting a losing battle in the parks today.

"Literally hundreds of people sitting having pizza, beers, wines. As always a big thank you to those that are observing the guidelines.

"COVID-19 rule-breakers are being warned that they are putting emergency workers at risk, and putting avoidable pressure on the NHS."

Mr Johnson had urged people to "stay at home" before the bank holiday, before making today's changes.

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