Covid Laws and Guidance - Commissioner's Statement
Throughout the pandemic I have given a consistent message. Everyone should abide by the law and guidance, and the spirit of the law and guidance, regardless of your views on whether they constitute the right approach. A consistent application of rules and guidance offers the quickest and safest possible route out of the current restricted situation.
What we saw at the weekend, not only at Cleethorpes but other seaside towns in our area, and right across the country, was a flagrant breach of the law and the spirit of willing compliance with guidance intended to keep us all safe. Such large-scale public disregard makes the policing of such matters hugely difficult.
As PCC I have been maintaining an overview of the Humberside Police response to the pandemic and have been impressed with the manner in which their engagement with the public, seeking willing compliance, has largely met with public approval.
Hundreds of fixed penalty tickets have, however, been issued to those breaching the law. I have also always been clear that the police could never enforce wholesale compliance with the rules if sufficient members of the public sought to flout them. Policing in England and Wales has always operated on the basis that the vast majority of our population will co-operate with the application of the law and co-operate with the police. Policing with consent is our traditional way of policing and benefits us all.
The National Police Chiefs Council has circulated guidance to forces on the interpretation of the law and guidance on the pandemic. For the force to repeat that guidance, as though it has the power of law, when it has still to be tested through the courts, risks giving a green light to those who wish to stretch to breaking point their own interpretation of pandemic restrictions. I do not believe it is the right public message to give immediately following scenes we saw along our coastline at the weekend.
Many have lost loved ones through this period. Health and other key workers, including the police themselves, have done and continue to put themselves at risk for the benefit of us all. Any message from those key agencies should be carefully measured to encourage continuing willing compliance with the law and with the spirit of the guidance and illustrate an understanding of what so many have gone through to get us to the point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When we see what we did at the weekend it is reasonable for our residents to expect the police service to do what it can to alleviate the situation, for their protection. Giving clear messages in advance that this will not be tolerated would assist to reduce the potential for the situation to be repeated in future. Mixed messaging is likely to encourage breaches.
How Humberside Police operate to enforce the law and encourage compliance with guidance is a matter for the Chief Constable and not one I can interfere with. I have spoken to him regarding this matter in my role of oversight and will continue to monitor the response. For my part I want to give a clear message:
If you travel for exercise you should have a clear reason for not taking that exercise closer to home.
Wanting a day out at the seaside with your family is not exercise – it is a family day out and not currently permitted just because you happen to exit your car and walk a short distance.
Eating takeaway food either sat down, or even walking, is not exercise, it is eating. It is not allowed outside of your home.
Until the rules change, unless you are a resident of our resorts or live close by, you are not welcome to visit them.
Do not look for ways to get around the rules and guidance - stick to them, and the spirit of them, and we will emerge from the restrictions the safer and quicker for it.
Those who don’t are selfish and putting us all at risk including our key workers. Don’t clap NHS staff and then put them at risk with your behaviour.
Finally, we are close to a return to normality now. We must maintain the sense of community we have built over the past year and not let self-interest erode what is a great foundation to build our recovery upon.
For more information on the current Coronavirus lockdown laws and guidance visit https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8875/
Posted on Thursday 4th March 2021