Issuing fines over Covid ‘last thing’ police commissioner wants to do
PUBLISHED: 10:04 14 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:15 14 September 2020
The acting police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire has said issuing fines for breaking pandemic-related restrictions will be a last resort and that the force will continue to remind people of the regulations.
Ray Bisby, told the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Outbreak Engagement Board on Friday (September 11) that generally, the public have been responsive when reminded of the regulations, but that officers would take enforcement action for those “flouting” the law.
His comments prompted a senior councillor to urge him and the police to consider taking a tough approach.
The deputy leader of the county council and chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Outbreak Engagement Board, Roger Hickford, suggested that the “softly” approach described may not be appropriate.
He said: “At the moment some people are saying we have got an invisible police force as far as enforcement for Covid-19 is concerned in Cambridgeshire.”
The police have powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices of £100, with higher fines for further breaches.
Asked about his approach to enforcement, Mr Bisby said: “I speak quite often with the chief constable and what the police have been doing is the four Es.
“So engaging with people, explaining the situation, and then encouraging them to abide by the rules and regulations that we have got, and the last thing we want to do is to actually enforce by giving Fixed Penalty Notices, but it will be done.
“With the new regulations, the chief constable and I have spoken about this, and we believe that is the way that we will continue to work because this is a health situation and we will work with the health people as best we can to make sure that people who are flouting the law are actually dealt with. But generally, the public have been responsive to what has been recommended and they are really good at responding when they have been approached and things have been explained to them. Some people do forget.
“But as I say, it’s the four Es for us that we are asking the force to do and make sure that they don’t actually see themselves as doing what other people should be doing – it’s a combination of people who should be ensuring this.
“So it should be making sure that the pubs and clubs etc are actually enforcing their side of the law. But the police will come in and deal with things as and when they are required.”
Cllr Hickford responded: “A softly softly approach is appropriate sometimes but sometimes a hard nose approach is appropriate, and you say as a default position the last thing the police want to do is do its Penalty Notices.
“Actually some people think it’s the first thing the police should be doing because it sets the tone and it sets an example for others – that way others will start taking note, and at the moment some people are saying we have got an invisible police force as far as enforcement for Covid-19 is concerned in Cambridgeshire, which I don’t particularly like hearing, and I just need you to know that.
“The police are beginning to have this reputation of not doing anything at the moment.”
Mr Bisby said he did represent the view of the community in his communications with the chief constable.
He said: “What the force has been saying, which is quite right, is that there are things that people presume the police can do but there is no actual legislation for them to do. But where they meet with people flouting the law and will not respond to the request then they will take action.
“It’s that perception that people have that the police have powers where sometimes they don’t, it’s just recommendations.
“But the police are working with all our partners to try and ensure that the regulations and recommendations are adhered to by the public.
“But they will actually come hard down on people where they need to see that action taken, so they will work in that way. But for me, generally the public are wanting to work within the regulations and the advice, and some of the people are people who would never ever become involved in the law and it’s just getting used to the new regulations.”
Cllr Hickford responded, saying: “If you do one thing then maybe you could take a message from me to the chief constable to say exactly how I have outlined the perception at the moment, and I would like that to be a different perception going forward.”
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