New powers are being introduced to help police enforce protection during the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the powers given to police, no-one will be allowed to leave their home "without reasonable excuse" and officers can ensure that people stay at home, avoid non-essential travel, police will be able to order people to go home, leave an area or disperse. The new powers mean officers can:
ensure parents are doing all they can to stop their children breaking the rules
issue a £60 fixed penalty
issue a £120 fixed penalty for second-time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence
Anyone who does not pay can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines. If they still refuse to comply, police can arrest them.
Officers have seen large numbers of people flock to beaches and beauty spots to walk their dogs and exercise, such as Seaton Carew, Redcar and Saltburn, and some of these people have even driven from out of the area to visit them, contravening government guidance and putting communities at risk.
Chief Superintendent Thom Mcloughlin, Head of Local Policing, said: “We are urging people to adhere to the government’s guidelines and not to make unnecessary journeys. I am really disappointed that people have gone out to beaches and beauty spots to walk their dog or go for a run, putting their own lives, as well as the lives of their friends and families at risk.
“Where people are going out to exercise, they should do this in the local vicinity of their home and not travel across the county.
“Whilst we now have the powers to enforce protection in order to help save lives and protect our NHS, policing by consent is at the heart of our public service. We will continue to encourage and support our communities to comply with the restrictions, but it’s right that our officers are now able to enforce against those who disregard these measures and put others at risk.
“I would hope that the majority of our communities understand the gravity of what is happening at the moment and understand that these measures are in place for a reason, but we are prepared to, and will not hesitate to, enforce these new powers in order to protect the wider community.”
Under strict measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week, people are only allowed to leave the house for specific reasons:
Shopping for "basic necessities", as infrequently as possible
One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk or cycle
Medical reasons, to provide care, or to help a vulnerable person
Travelling to and from work, but only if it is "absolutely necessary" and cannot be done from home