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Mass fining of people flouting coronavirus lockdown laws 'unlikely'

By Richard Guttridge | Coronavirus | Published:

Police are unlikely to be able to slap fines on a large amount of people for not complying with the enforced lockdown, a former senior officer has said.

Stronger sentencing powers is needed to punish those who attack police officers, it has been claimed

Mike Layton, a retired West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent, says resources will only stretch so far and that the lockdown, implemented to try and halt the spread of coronavirus, "would not work unless the vast majority of people get on board".

It follows condemnation of people flouting the rules set out by Boris Johnson in an address to the nation on Monday night, including a group of around 20 people who attended a barbecue in Coventry.

However, Mr Layton said he believed most people were "decent and law-abiding" and would follow the orders.

There have been suggestions those who don't could end up with criminal records. Police will have powers to dish out fines from £30.

But critics have questioned how police will prove those outdoors and not in large groups are not complying.

People at the barbecue in Coventry. Image: West Midlands Police

Mr Layton said: "The police have to have a basket of options as they always do.

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"I don't think police will want to put a massive amount of time into handing out fixed penalty notices but it should be there as an option to use as a deterrent.

"We are not used to being told what to do and doing it but that's the price we are having to pay at the moment. The fixed penalty option will be there but I don't see it playing a major role.

"They will still have people having to be arrested. Murders are still occurring. Crimes will have to be investigated.

"The idea of filing fixed penalty notices on everybody isn't what the police want to do. They want to be policing with the consent of the public."

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He added: "The onus of proof is always on the police so that could be an issue. But officers aren't going to be chasing after joggers, it will be the larger groups."

Mr Layton said another issue could be police forces becoming stretched if the crisis continues for a long period and officers or family members develop symptoms and have to take time off sick.

He said: "The big, unfolding issue is how big is this going to be in terms of an outbreak?

"Police officers, as with any other key worker, are not immune to the necessity to self-isolate or becoming ill.

"Without a shadow of a doubt it is going to have a dramatic effect on the numbers of officers that can be deployed."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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