Police have been given new powers of arrest if coronavirus lockdown rules are ignored - and can issue hefty fines

Friday, 27th March 2020, 12:44 pm
Updated Friday, 27th March 2020, 2:34 pm
Police can now arrest people for breaching the lockdown guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)
Police can now arrest people for breaching the lockdown guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)

Police have been given new powers to arrest people who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules.

Those who ignore the guidance issued by the government will be breaking the law and could face being arrested by police.

What powers do police have?

Police officers in England were given the power to enforce rules on staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel as of 1pm on Thursday (26 Mar).

The new powers mean police can now order members of the public to return to their homes, or leave an area.

They are also able to disperse a group, using “reasonable force”, if necessary.

Officers can also take steps to ensure that parents are stopping their children from breaking the lockdown rules.

Similarly, people in Scotland who flout social distancing rules also face being fined by the police.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed new emergency legislation had received Royal Assent, meaning police can now issue fines and arrest those who breach the coronavirus lockdown guidance.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the now stricter powers were designed to "protect the public and keep people safe".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the now stricter powers were designed to "protect the public and keep people safe".

What fines could I face?

People who ignore the restrictions on movement could be landed with an initial fine of £60, followed by a fine of £120 if a second offence is made, the Home Office has warned.

According to the guidance, the cost of initial fixed penalty notices will be cut to £30 if they are paid within 14 days.

Those who do not pay could be taken to court and risk facing costs for unlimited fines.

Refusing to provide police with a name and address to avoid being given a fine is an arrestable offence.

The Home Office said: "If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where deemed proportionate and necessary.

"However, in the first instance, the police will always apply their common sense and discretion."

How long will lockdown rules be in place?

Known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, similar rules will be in place across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The Regulations state they are made "in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health" posed by Covid-19, and the Government considers the "restrictions and requirements imposed by these regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve."

The rules will be in place for an emergency period which must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on April 16.

How will the powers be enforced?

The news of the stricter enforcements comes after Derbyshire Police said people continued to drive to the Peak District for walks despite warnings to stay at home.

Other forces across the UK have also revealed plans on how they will police the rules.

North Yorkshire Police said officers would be on foot patrol and stopping motorists at "checkpoints" from Thursday (26 Mar).

Drivers will be asked where they are going, why they are going there, and reminded of the rules on staying at home, according to the force.

Welsh force Dyfed-Powys, which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, said it would be carrying out "high visibility patrols" and stop-checks on vehicles to make sure only those which need to travel are doing so.

Meanwhile, several other forces said they had closed police stations to the public in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, instead urging them to contact officers by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.