Police have no powers to enforce six-foot social distancing rule in England because it has not been written into law, senior officers admit
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Police in England have no powers to enforce the six-foot social distancing rule because it has not been written into law, senior officers have admitted.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, the government had advised the public to stay two metres apart wherever possible. But nearly two months since the country was plunged into lockdown, police reveal they cannot enforce it.
Fresh guidelines issued by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council urges officers to only enforce what is written in law, adding that ‘Government guidance is not enforceable, for example two-metre distancing, avoiding public transport or the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces’.
Police stepped up patrols in Hyde Park to prevent people breaking social distancing rules, but some rules set out by the government are not enforceable, new guidance states
The advice, set out in a document published on Wednesday after being sent out to forces on Tuesday night, follows updated legislation coming into force.
Neither the original Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 from March 26 nor the amendment enacted at 12.01am on Wednesday address social distancing specifically, so keeping two metres apart in certain circumstances is not a legal requirement.
By contrast, two metre social distancing ‘is enforceable’ by police officers in Wales, the advice says. But Welsh councils, not police forces, are responsible for making sure there is social distancing in workplaces, it adds.
Referring officers to the updated law in England for more information, the notice reiterates: ‘People are still not allowed to leave or be outside of their homes without a reasonable excuse.
‘The regulations update the list of examples of reasonable excuses, but officers’ judgement and discretion are key – apply the four ‘E’s (engage, explain, encourage, enforce).’
Advice set out on Wednesday claims police cannot enforce a two metre social distancing rule
The document adds: ‘Enforcement is a last resort.’
Since the lockdown came into effect it has become against illegal in every part of the UK to be outside your home ‘without reasonable excuse,’ or to be part of a public gathering.
If someone refuses to follow new regulations by, for example, gathering in a group with people from outside their household, officers can hand out an on the spot fine.
Police can charge anyone, anywhere in the UK, with the offence of breaching coronavirus regulations.
Police are able to hand out on the spot fines to people breaching coronavirus regulations, but national chiefs say they cannot enforce social distancing rules such as keeping two metres apart
Detailing the extension of the list of reasonable excuses and businesses which are now allowed to open – including trips to garden centres, outdoor sports facilities, open countryside and parks, or to meet one member of another household in public, or take part in house viewings if trying to buy or sell a property – it also sets out clearly that ‘gatherings of three or more people (from different households) are not permitted.’
Going on holiday, including visiting or staying overnight at a holiday home or second home, and visiting the homes of friends and family (except where to protect or care for a vulnerable person), are not considered reasonable excuses, police were told.
Officers were also urged to be aware of differences in legislation in Wales and Scotland, particularly when patrolling towns and villages on the borders and encountering people travelling to outdoor spaces there.
The document said: ‘Travelling to outdoor spaces in Wales and Scotland for recreation (not exercise) may result in offences being committed in those jurisdictions, and so may not be a reasonable excuse for leaving home.’