Coronavirus: Police told to be ‘consistent’ with lockdown approach


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Derbyshire Police

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Derbyshire Police was criticised for the use of drones to film people parking their cars for walks in the Peak District

UK police officers have been told to take a “consistent” approach when ensuring people comply with emergency measures aimed at curbing coronavirus.

Guidance to officers calls on forces to “coordinate” efforts and emphasises the importance of professionalism.

It comes amid criticism of the way some forces have handled the new measures.

A former Justice of the Supreme Court told the BBC one force’s use of drones to film walkers in the Peak District had been “disgraceful”.

‘Citizens in uniform’

The guidance was issued to police on Thursday when officers were given powers to fine people who gather in groups or refuse to return home, following social distancing measures introduced by the government last week.

The document from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing, seen by the BBC, says communities must receive a “consistent” level of service from officers as well as a “single style and tone”.

It also advises police to keep an “inquisitive, questioning mindset” when finding out why people are not at home.

If people are vulnerable and cannot safely return home, the new enforcement measures should not be used, it says.

However, some forces have adopted different approaches, particularly around the issue of driving.

Derbyshire Police has used drones to film people parking their cars for walks in the Peak District.

On Monday, Lord Sumption, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, told Radio 4’s World At One the actions of Derbyshire Police – which also included uploading drone footage of walkers to social media – had “shamed our policing traditions”.

“The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform, they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command,” he said.

“The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences but only legal regulations which don’t go anything like as far as the government’s guidance.”

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North Yorkshire Police officers have stopped motorists in cars to check that their travel is “essential”

Since the incident, there have been discussions among senior officers about the need for police to exercise common sense and sound judgment.

The chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Andy Marsh, said: “We all agreed we wanted to see this done with the consent of the public.

“We’re not going to enforce our way out of this problem – we’ll get out of this problem because people want to solve the problem, and we’ll get out of it because we’ve got the public at our side and they will lead us through it,” he told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, one of the UK’s most senior police officers, said officers must preserve “the trust and confidence of the public” and maintain the tradition of “policing by consent”.

The latest number of deaths announced in the UK of people with coronavirus has reached 1,408.

On Monday, the UK’s chief scientific adviser said there were early signs the social distancing measures – which restricts people’s travel and activities outside their home – were “making a difference”.

Sir Patrick Vallance said at the government’s daily coronavirus news briefing that the NHS was seeing around an additional 1,000 patients a day and described this daily rise as “stable”.

“That shows that it’s going up not in an increasing amount but in a constant amount, which may suggest that we’re already beginning to see some effect,” he said.

It was the second day in a row that daily deaths had fallen, although Sir Patrick cautioned against paying “too much attention” to day-to-day fluctuations in figures.

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Media captionDominic Raab said charter flights will be arranged for countries where commercial flights have stopped.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic will be flown home under a new arrangement between the government and airlines.

Airlines including BA, Virgin and easyJet will work with the government to help fly tens of thousands of Britons back to the UK.

Speaking at the press briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Foreign Office had also set aside £75m to charter special flights where commercial ones are unavailable.

In other developments:

  • The Prince of Wales is now out of self-isolation, following his diagnosis of coronavirus last week. A palace official said Prince Charles, 71, was in good health
  • Pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson hopes to start coronavirus vaccine trials in humans by September
  • Police in Scotland issued 25 fines over the weekend to people breaking the coronavirus restrictions, such as businesses that were still open. The force also said it received a significant number of calls including from people reporting others who were breaking rules
  • Thousands of airline staff from EasyJet and Virgin are being offered work in the new NHS Nightingale Hospital. The chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, said around 100 cabin crew have expressed an interest
  • The UK’s main internet providers have agreed to remove data caps on fixed-line broadband during the coronavirus pandemic
  • A rapid response unit within the Cabinet Office is working with social media firms to remove misinformation about coronavirus
  • Convenience stores selling Easter eggs are facing interference from “heavy-handed” officials suggesting chocolate eggs are non-essential, a trade body says
  • In South Korea, there are calls to deport a British man in his 30s, who broke quarantine guidelines and may have spread the virus while travelling through the country. Instead of spending 14 days in self-isolation after arriving, he visited four different cities and later tested positive
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