Police today got tough on Covid lawbreakers, with 28 protesters arrested for flouting restrictions, four men fined £800 for travelling in the same car on their way to McDonald’s and officers even stopping motorists to ask ‘why are you here?’
The Met detained 21 demonstrators at an anti-lockdown rally in Parliament Square this afternoon, while a further seven were hauled away from a march outside Julian Assange’s bail hearing and now face fines of up to £6,400.
In Northampton, a group of friends were pulled over at 5am and slapped with a £800 penalty notice for being in the same car despite being from different households – breaching rules that came into force at midnight.
Meanwhile Thames Valley Police apologised after an officer who was ‘a bit keen’ handed out leaflets asking drivers to explain why they were out and about as part of a crackdown on travel in Maidenhead.
The Met rolled out some of the toughest anti-Covid measures today, announcing anyone caught not wearing a face mask in a shop or on public transport would be fined £200.
But the penalties will not be given on the spot and people will be allowed a short time frame with which to produce a doctor’s letter.
The clampdown on people leaving home without ‘good reason’ came as Boris Johnson quietly extended his third national lockdown until March 31 as his new Covid law was published and he ducked Tory demands to guarantee ‘malicious’ rules are eased after his first review on February 15.
The Prime Minister had told the Commons ahead of the vote on the measure tonight he has ‘no choice’ but to clamp down on those flouting the rules to curb the spread of the mutant Covid strain sweeping the country.
He said: ‘We have no choice but to return to a national lockdown in England with similar measures being adopted by the devolved administrations, so we can control this new variant until we can take the most likely victims out of its path with vaccines.’
Tory MPs are alarmed the regulations have extended the expiry date of the tiers system from February 22 to March 31 – despite the PM claiming the system can start to be eased from mid-February if the vaccine rollout goes well.
As police pledged to get tough to stop the spread of Covid, it also emerged today:
- Boris Johnson desperately tries to win over furious Tory MPs as he defends national lockdown and insists he had ‘no choice’ but to shut down England;
- Matt Hancock was accused of snubbing an offer by pharmacists to help the biggest vaccination drive in history – and it emerged doses of the vaccine will not be delivered to GPs on a Sunday;
- World Health Organization refuses to back UK’s move to space Pfizer Covid vaccine doses by 12 weeks because there is no proof it will work;
- More chaos in education as BTEC students are ‘left in limbo’ over exams starting today as A-Levels and GCSEs tests are finally axed.
Four people who were caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws
Protesters yelled as they were surrounded and arrested after officers asked them to leave area around Parliament Square. One was pinned down and cuffed on the plinth under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi
Police officers arrest a 92-year-old man outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, today after the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail. The Met is yet to confirm the reason for the arrests as it pledged to get tough on covidiots, including those gathering in large groups
This woman screamed as she was taken away after repeated warnings from officers to clear the area outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court
Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground
Police were forced to chase the protesters around Parliament Square after many refused to desperse this afternoon
Police officers detain a demonstrator at Parliament Square during an anti-lockdown protest that breached Covid lockdown rules
This woman was searched and then taken away as the Met said it would come down hard on anyone outside without a ‘good excuse’
This man was led away as his fellow protesters shouted ‘fascists’ at officers sent in to break up the protest in Parliament Square as new lockdown rules became law
Thames Valley Police has apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets in Maidenhead asking drivers ‘why are you here today?’
Boris Johnson speaking in the Commons today new lockdown legally came into force this morning, ensuring people can’t leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’ or face fines of £200 upwards
The regulations underpinning the drastic curbs have come into effect in England after the PM said he was left with ‘no choice’ due to the mutant strain running rampant
Motorists who caught making repeated unnecessary journeys during the latest lockdown will have their number plates recorded by police ANPR cameras and then face being fined by officers who later turn up at their homes.
Officers will also visit the homes of Londoners who have recently returned to Britain from South Africa, where experts have identified a particularly virulent Covid bug which may be resistant to all current vaccines.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said policing was being ‘ramped up considerably’ as the government was now ‘frightened’ of the numbers of deaths and infection rates in London.
He said that ten per cent of the Met force – more than 3,000 officers – were now off work due to the virus and that number was rising fast.
Explaining the new measures Ken Marsh told MailOnline: ‘If you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, you now have to print off a clarification that proves you have an exemption. This is a problem we’ve had all along, that before anyone could say they had a medical reason for not wearing a mask and we’d have to just accept it and walk off. That isn’t the case now.
‘Officers will pursue the questioning in the same manner but the person will then be given a certain amount of time – how long exactly hasn’t yet been finalised – with which to produce notice of exemption from a doctor.
‘While people are not required to carry this exemption with them at all times, it’s easier and speeds up the process if they do. What I’ve actually called for is a badge that someone actually has to apply for first and then can wear to show that they have a proper medical exemption.
‘We’re not trying to be Big Brother about it but you can get on the tube and there’d be roughly a dozen people without face coverings who I would question have an exemption.’
Mr Marsh continued: ‘We are ramping up the work around vehicle movement. ANPR monitoring will be done across the board in relation to persistent vehicle users and if found they are flouting the law they will be fined. Officers will visit their homes to ask the nature of their journeys and if needs be those motorists will be fined.
‘We are also visiting the homes of anyone arriving from South Africa, back from holiday.
What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home?
You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:
- Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
- Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
- Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
- Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend.
- Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
- Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area
- Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).
- You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
- Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.
There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.
‘Police patrols are being stepped up all over London and from tomorrow a taskforce, made up of all the relevant authorities, including the local councils and police, will be going out in force over the next two weeks to ensure that non-essential businesses remain closed.’
Mr Marsh said that any future anti-vaccine demonstrations – like those led by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – will be dealt with far more robustly.
That was evident today when four people caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws.
Police pulled over the vehicle at around 5am in Bedford Road, Northampton. The two men and two women claimed they were on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast – even though the fast food restaurant did not open for another two hours.
Enquiries confirmed the four were not from the same household, so the journey breached lockdown rules which officially came into force at midnight.
As a result, their early-morning takeaway turned out way more expensive than planned when officers slapped them each with £200 fines.
Meanwhile anti-lockdown protesters were seen being chased through Westminster this afternoon before being pinned to the floor, handcuffed and warned they would be fined if they did not return home.
Mr Marsh said: ‘We are going to get a lot tougher on these sort of anti-vaccine protests from now on because not only is it disinformation it’s unlawful. There will be a lot more policing around these groups now and far more robust action to be taken and arrests to be made.’
Despite rising numbers of police officers having to take time off with Covid-related issues, 200 Met cops are being drafted in to drive London Ambulances because of a shortage in the ambulance service.
Mr Marsh added: ‘Our numbers have now gone above 3,000 off sick – I mentioned that it was 1,300 only ten days ago so it shows how fast numbers are rising.
‘In fact it’s scary that numbers are going up at that speed. There are 32,112 officers in the Met – so more than ten per cent are either ill with Covid or having to self-isolate because of it.
‘Yet we are also now going to be providing 200 drivers to the London Ambulance Service.
‘We’ve got to perform these roles on top of daily policing and although we would never turn a blind eye to crime but we will have limited resources. This is all above and beyond the call of duty and it’s putting a huge strain on my colleagues.’
Council Covid wardens were also out in force across the country today as the authorities vowed to fine mask-flouters or anyone out of the house without ‘good reason’ at least £200 on the spot. West Midlands Police has asked for permission to force entry into homes to break up parties.
Scotland Yard’s constables were filmed chasing protesters through Parliament Square today before putting them in handcuffs as officers were heard telling people gathering illegally: ‘I’m going to issue you a fine if you don’t return home’. 21 people were arrested and are being taken into custody. They have not yet been fined.
People were pinned to the ground and cuffed – including on the plinths of the famous statues there including Mahatma Gandhi’s – before being put into vans after refusing to leave Westminster.
Around two miles away Met officers arrested seven supporters of Julian Assange as he was denied bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning, including 92-year-old Eric Levy and several other pensioners. Protesters shouted ‘fascists’ at police taking them away.
A Met spokesman said: ‘Seven people were detained for breaching Coronavirus regulations. They were later reported for consideration of a fixed penalty notice and ordered to leave the area’.
The hard-line from the Metropolitan Police came as England’s new lockdown laws were published and it was revealed they will be enforced until Easter on March 31 – not mid-February as Boris Johnson promised if the vaccine roll-out is successful.
Scotland Yard says that anyone attending unlicensed music events or large illegal parties will now also be fined – not just the organisers of such events – and anyone ‘wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with’.
Meanwhile West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry to homes, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ if there is an illegal party.
Fixed penalty notices of £200 will be issued for any first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.
A bearded man in a cap, tracksuit and Batman scarf is put in handcuffs during an anti lockdown protest at Parliament Square
Supporters of Julian Assange were also taken away after police said they ignored repeated warnings not to gather
The Met had also said that it would act if there was a protest in Parliament Square and duly sent in officers to break it up
Elsewhere, senior police have apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets asking drivers ‘why are you here?’ as part of a crackdown on travel during lockdown.
Residents in upmarket Maidenhead, Berks., were outraged to find their trips for shopping and exercise challenged by uniformed police, who distributed the leaflets.
The leaflet read: ‘Government restrictions require us to avoid ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL.
‘You should exercise no more than once daily. This should be by walking, running or cycling etc. from your home address. You should not be driving to a location away from your home to carry this out.
‘Please refrain from unnecessary travel until the restrictions have been lifted.’
However, bosses at Thames Valley Police have said the leaflets should not have been handed out by officers, who stopped all traffic on a bridge in the area.
Rosalind Bieber, who shared a picture of one of the leaflets online, said: ‘I got caught up in a big queue this morning at 9.30am, from the roundabout by the police station to the Berkeley’s site.
‘There were two police officers stopping every single car and asking where we were going. I was handed this leaflet as shown below and told I cannot shop at the Tesco in Taplow as I live in Maidenhead. They will be issuing fines from tomorrow, so be aware folks.’
Ms Bieber added: ‘If Tesco is where I do my regular food shop why should I then be told to shop at another supermarket.
‘I’m travelling two miles from an SL6 postcode to another SL6 postcode. I dislike Sainsbury’s so I won’t be going there. Not my fault that Tesco is two miles away, the one in Maidenhead closed down three months ago! Instead the police should be cracking down on those travelling on non essential journeys!’
More than 100 mourners attending the funeral of a friend who died from Covid-19 were sent home from a cemetery by police for breaking the coronavirus rules on gatherings.
The mourners arrived at the crematorium and cemetery in Slough, Berks., to pay their last respects to someone being buried during a funeral after dying from the pandemic virus.
Officers had to send the grieving people away, pointing out that no more than 30 people were allowed to gather for funerals under the regulations. The Slough crematorium was the setting for the funeral for Princess Margaret many years ago.
A spokesman for Slough Borough Council said: ‘We are warning residents that police will be called to the cemetery and crematorium if lockdown regulations are breached, following an incident earlier today.
‘Police were called to the Stoke Road site, owned and operated by the council, after more than 100 people turned up for a burial, in clear breach of the lockdown regulations which require there to be only 30 people in attendance and socially distanced.
‘It is the first time police have been called to the cemetery because of a breach of the Covid regulations since the crisis began.’
Boris Johnson’s new legislation means that the public must stay at home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’, must travel for critical work, daily exercise and cannot meet with more than one person outside their household as the arduous new third lockdown begins.
The regulations underpinning the drastic lockdown curbs have come into effect in England after the PM said he was left with ‘no choice’ due to the mutant strain running rampant.
A person in a mobility scooter passes a ‘Thank you NHS Staff’ sign on the sea front on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset
People wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sit and talk on a bench in York. The rules state only two people from different households can meet until April
A man walks across a deserted Sherlock Street in Birmingham city centre during new national lockdown measures
Empty streets in Leeds, West Yorkshiure, on the second day of the national lockdown
The Tube was also largely deserted in central London this morning as millions were ordered to stay at home
A couple trudge through the snow in Biggin Hill Kent this morning as people enjoyed their daily exercise
The regulations enforcing a national lockdown in England came into effect at 00.01 on Wednesday, as new figures suggested one in 50 people had coronavirus last week.
Data from the Office for National Statistics suggested 1.1 million people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said people must take the ‘stay at home’ rules seriously as he warned that the country faced a ‘really serious emergency’.
His comments came as the number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time, while a further 830 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday.
But in a sign of progress, the Prime Minister said that more than 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against the virus across the UK so far, including 23% of all the over 80s in England.
Police state UK: Crime commissioner calls for law change to allow officers to force entry into homes of suspected rule-breakers
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’
A police force wants powers to force entry into the homes of suspected Covid rule breakers.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily.’
Mr Jamieson said: ‘For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.
‘I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.’
Before Christmas, Mr Jamieson said officers would break up family celebrations if they flouted lockdown rules over the festive period. The police chief also warned about Hanukkah and Diwali celebrations.
But his cash-strapped force came under fire earlier this week after advertising for a new £74,000-a-year ‘fairness and belonging’ director to ‘oversee improved inclusive culture throughout the workplace’.
Prof Whitty, speaking alongside Mr Johnson at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday evening, said the vaccine timetable was ‘realistic but not easy’, and that the NHS would have to use ‘multiple channels’ to get it out.
But questions have been raised over the roll-out, with a pharmacy chief questioning why the NHS is ‘scrabbling around’ for vaccinators when his industry was offering to help.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, told The Telegraph: ‘Rather than scrabbling around trying to find retired GPs and nurses and anyone who has possibly dated skills, you’ve got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter.
‘We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help. But we’ve been met by a de facto silence.’
Meanwhile The Times reported that two million doses of the Pfizer vaccines held back for boosters would be distributed in the next fortnight.
Police chiefs have warned that enforcing the third national lockdown will increase the load on officers, whose numbers are already stretched because of the pandemic.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said harsh restrictions will ‘put a lot of pressure’ on constables in London.
Mr Marsh revealed that some 1,300 Scotland Yard officers were off sick or self-isolating in the capital.
Meanwhile John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said that some forces in England had as much as 15 per cent of staff off.
Asked about how lockdown enforcement would affect officers, Mr Marsh said: ‘It will obviously create a lot of pressure on us because we have a lot more officers off this time than we did back in March.
‘Our numbers have rocketed in terms of officers with Covid and officers isolating and we envisage that getting worse.
‘So the pressure is on my colleagues who are still out there to maintain the same level that they did before.’
On Monday night Boris Johnson announced a seven-week lockdown to curb the surge of coronavirus being driven by a highly transmissible new variant of the disease.
A deserted Regent Street in London yesterday as millions more worked from home again and schools all shut for seven weeks
Police officers chat with members of the public on patrol around the Barton Hill area
Police fine group of 11 hikers who breached Covid rules to drive more than 150 miles from London to Peak District after one of them crashed their car
A group of 11 hikers who drove more than 150 miles from London to the Peak District have been fined for breaching coronavirus rules after one of them crashed their car. Pictured: The car
A group of 11 hikers who drove more than 150 miles from London to the Peak District have been fined for breaching coronavirus rules after one of them crashed their car.
The men had travelled from Harrow, North London in three vehicles on Monday, ahead of Boris Johnson announcing a third nationwide lockdown for England which came into force today.
They were caught flouting Covid-19 laws by police near Bamford, Derbyshire after one driver flipped his car on the A6013 following a day in the countryside.
The men, who were embarking on the three-hour journey home, were each handed £200 penalties for travelling between Tier Four areas.
Derbyshire Police also seized one of the three vehicles due to it being uninsured and sent its owner home on a train.
At the time, London was under England’s highest Tier Four restrictions which had banned people from embarking on non-essential travel out of the city.
England will revert from a tiered system of restrictions which has seen the country following different degrees of measures.
Mr Apter warned that blanket restrictions were clear to grasp, which means officers would be less lenient to flouters.
‘People should expect to see more enforcement as a consequence because there really are no excuses for not knowing the rules this time,’ he said.
He added: ‘The majority of the public will do what is expected of them, but I think there is a real issue over virus and lockdown fatigue.
‘There is a real frustration and the police often deal with the sharp end of that as people are angry when challenged.’
Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.
The Prime Minister concluded his gloomy televised address with a ray of hope, heralding the ‘biggest vaccination rollout in our history’.
Ministers hope that by mid-February, all care home residents, extremely vulnerable, over-75s and frontline health workers will have received the jab.
Police top brass are also calling for officers to get the vaccine.
Mr Marsh claimed: ‘It would appear that policing has been airbrushed out of any conversation in relation to protecting my colleagues, which I find quite incredible considering they are on the front line.
‘They are the one group of people other than the National Health Service that actually have to go to work and have to be out there with the public, every day, 24 hours a day.
‘It’s just amazing that no consideration whatsoever has been given to vaccinating police.’
Mr Apter has also called for officers to be prioritised after society’s most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.
He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘Without the vaccine, there is a real danger that more officers will contract the virus.
‘As growing numbers self-isolate or report sick with the virus, then the police service begins to struggle to do what the public fully expects of it.
‘Some forces are already starting to report up to per cent of their officers off sick or self-isolating. This is getting worse and is simply not sustainable.’
Mr Apter, whose organisation represents 130,000 officers, said the ‘last thing the public want is to call 999 in their hour of need, only to find we are too short of officers to be able to respond’.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘It’s wrong to suggest that police don’t have the resources they need – absence rates remain low nationally and we have supported the police throughout the pandemic, including providing an additional £30million in October for enforcement of coronavirus regulations.
‘Police will continue to engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce where this is necessary to save lives.’