Posted on Mar 28, 2020
Police forces across the UK appear to be confused and divided over the rules and the sweeping powers afforded by the emergency laws, and are seemingly unaware of the distinctions between "guidance" and "legislation", writes Gary Cartwright.
Guidance from the National Police Chiefs' Council states people must stay at home except for medical reasons, essential shopping, or for once-daily exercise.
Police, apparently taking this "guidance" as "law" then took full advantage of their new self-assumed authority, using the new emergency powers within the first 12 hours of them being ratified by MPs. £60 fines are being slapped on citizens who may, in the opinion of the officers concerned, be acting in a way contrary to government guidelines. However, these people are acting in accordance with government legislation.
Nowhere in the fast-tracked Coronavirus Bill, rushed through legislation after just two days of debate in the upper chamber, does it restrict citizens to once daily outdoor exercise, for example. However, the police appear to enacting their own interpretation of the bill.
Forces in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire have been spending their time, and tawpayer's money, flying drones in order to track and shame dog walkers and ramblers, who have committed no criminal or civil offence, before posting online, leading to charges of "overzealousness" from politicians, lawyers, and human-rights group.
Derbyshire Police, not content with playing with drones, were last week informed that people were continuing to congregate beside the water near Harpur Hill, Buxton.
In an act of wanton environmental vandalism their response was to dump black dye into a picturesque blue lagoon in the Peak District in order to stop Instagrammers posing for snaps during the coronavirus lockdown.
In a Facebook post Buxton safer neighbourhood policing team said: "No doubt this is due to the picturesque location and the lovely weather (for once) in Buxton. However, the location is dangerous and this type of gathering is in contravention of the current instruction of the UK Government. With this in mind, we have attended the location this morning and used water dye to make the water look less appealing."
In the absence of officers on the beat, police chiefs are now encouraging Britons to snitch on neighbours they suspect of breaching the coronavirus lockdown rules put in place to protect them and the rest of the public.
Humberside, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Avon and Somerset Police have created a mixture of "hotlines" and "online portals" where people can submit tip-offs if lockdown infractions occur.
Concerned citizens are being asked to fill out an online form, presumably of the type used to reports household burglaries that are never investigated, specifying the nature of the alleged violations.
The parents of young adults who break coronavirus lockdown rules should be sanctioned, according to Ken Marsh, the head of the Metropolitan Police Federation, who has said that the parents of older teenagers should be forced to pay £60 on-the-spot fines if they were caught ignoring government guidance.
Former Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley, however, who also held a senior position with the City of London Police and has served with the Royal Military Police, during an interview with Iain Dale on LBC radio revealed that he wants to shoot transgressors. He suggested that officers should be able to shoot people with electric tasers, baton rounds, or "something else", if they leave home for non-essential reasons.
Police should be able fire tasers and plastic bullets at people who fail to comply with Britain's lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, a senior former officer has suggested.
The retired policeman, who rather worryingly was also Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner between November 2012 and May 2016, during which term of office he declared that he wanted to "batter and break the legs" of a man convicted of a stabbing, started by saying Britain's bobbies should follow the example of India's paramilitary police, who routinely beat suspects with long sticks.
I'm moved by what I'm seeing in India where police are literally beating anyone on the street with long sticks. Now this may sound absurd, but my experiences with dealing with the street in London, you can't even properly police many of the estates. I think we're talking about warning people, potentially issuing them a fine. If they don't comply, because you don't want to touch them (and become infected) taser them on the spot. If they still don't comply, fire baton rounds at them. If they still don't comply, fire something else at them that makes them comply permanently
Hurley, whose role as founder and CEO of Inspiration Security Solutions Ltd, which provides services for investigative, intelligence, risk and security issues led to allegations of "conflict of interest" with his public role, described the new powers given to police to fine people £60 who are outside their homes for non-essential reasons as "weak, insipid and unenforceable".
Elsewhere, within hours of the new legislation being enacted, the new powers were by London's Metropolitan Police to fine a bakery owner £80 for criminal damage after she put chalk lines outside her shop to keep her customers safe from coronavirus.
An officer told the flabbergasted woman that she had graffitied the pavement and if police failed to punish "crimes like these" there would be "anarchy", adding: "I can't help the law. We're also fining people for congregating - is that wrong too?"
The owner responded "This is not graffiti, it's chalk, it washes off. Would you rather all my customers don't stand two metres apart? I'm doing it for people's safety - to stop the spread of coronavirus", to which the officer replies: "It doesn't matter. It's criminal damage". The officer then threatened a further fine if the chalk was not removed immediately.
Britain's police forces have come under mounting criticism in recent years for their lack of visibility on the streets, for the knife crime epidemic that is sweeping the nation, and for their refusal to investigate, let alone solve, household burglaries of theft from motor vehicles.
As the country faces a public health crisis which, at the time of writing has claimed more than 1,000 lives, and threatens long-term damage to the economy, the police appear to have got off to a very bad start, and now face further losing credibility with the citizenry.
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