Police officers have 'no power to enforce social distancing' in England

13 May 2020, 11:02 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 11:42

Lockdown rules have been updated in England
Lockdown rules have been updated in England. Picture: PA
Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

Police officers in England have "no powers to enforce two metre social distancing" as new lockdown measures come into force.

New guidance set out by the National Police Chief's Council shows that as of Wednesday police in England can only advise people on social distancing.

Officers can only enforce coronavirus health protection regulations, while government guidance, for example two-metre distancing, avoiding public transport or the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces, is not enforceable by law.

Read more: England eases coronavirus lockdown with sunbathing and house sales allowed

However, in Wales and Scotland police can still enforce social distancing measures. In Wales, policing is not responsible for enforcing workplace social distancing, this requirement rests with Welsh local authorities.

The police's approach to all Covid-19 powers is for officers to engage, explain, encourage the public and only enforce as a last resort.

Read more: Coronavirus fines increase to £100 under new rules

Fine levels have been increased in England from £60 up to £100 for the first offence, up to a maximum sum of up to £3,200.

People were previously banned from congregating in parks
People were previously banned from congregating in parks. Picture: PA

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The NPCC also laid out a list of "reasonable excuses" for people to be outside in England:

- Unlimited exercise is permitted with one member of another household

- People may also now visit open public space for recreation to support their physical, mental or emotional wellbeing with no more than two people, unless from the same household

- Regulations now expressly state that you may visit public open space with one member of another household

- Recycling and waste disposal facilities open

- Garden centres are open

- Collecting shopping

- Undertaking activities associated with the sale or letting of property, such as visiting estate or letting agents, participating in house viewings or preparing a house for a property move are now permitted

Read more: Estate agents told to 'immediately' reopen as England's housing market is unlocked

Cressida Dick admitted that police do not have powers to enforce social distancing
Cressida Dick admitted that police do not have powers to enforce social distancing. Picture: PA

On Wednesday, Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick set out the force's plans to continue suppressing violent crime as lockdown measures are eased.

She also admitted police had no powers to enforce social distancing and said it is not the police's job to steward queues.

She said major part of their work would be policing large gatherings.

Ms Dick also said that enforcing the new rules would be "challenging, as it’s going to be harder for some people to understand what they are and aren’t allowed to do".

The changes to the coronavirus lockdown which Boris Johnson imposed seven weeks ago have sparked anger among some as they remain unable to visit loved ones but can now be shown around a property for sale.

The move to unlock the housing market comes as the death toll from Covid-19 continues to rise. As we reported earlier from Wednesday, show homes will be able to open back up to the public, while removal companies and other essential parts of the sales and letting process can restart with immediate effect.

The public will also be able to take unlimited exercise, meet one person from another household in a public space will also be permitted in England from Wednesday, as long as the two-metre rule is respected.

One activity which saw large numbers of people moved on was sunbathing in parks, which will also be allowed under the new rules, while golf clubs, tennis courts and angling have been given the green light.Restrictions on how far people can travel to get to the countryside, national parks and beaches in England have also been lifted - but people have been warned to respect local communities, keep their distance from others and avoid hotspots or busy areas.

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