London Police Says COVID Rules No Longer “Policeable” as Huge Crowds Turn Out for the Sun in Defiance of Government
Polls and ideology are one thing. Reality another
Police no longer wish to enforce Covid rules to break up groups gathering outdoors in the month before the restrictions are eased, rank and file officers said on Sunday night.
Huge crowds took advantage of unseasonably warm weather to meet in large numbers in parks and on beaches this weekend, but anecdotal evidence suggested only some police forces were still trying to enforce the existing rules.
The relaxation of Covid regulations only begins next Monday when, for the first time since the lockdown began, two people can meet in an “outdoor public space” for recreational purposes that include a coffee, drink or picnic.
Only by March 29 will six people – or two households – be allowed to meet outdoors, including in back gardens.
On Sunday night Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in the UK’s biggest force, said his members had no desire to carry out the law to the letter.
“Police don’t want to police this,” he said. “We have had enough of this. It is not policeable. It is not manageable.”
The Police Federation is demanding that frontline officers, faced with the prospect of having to break up crowds as the nation moves towards the ending of restrictions by June, receive vaccinations as a priority.
The Government said last week it would continue to vaccinate according to age groups, even once all over-50s have received their jabs.
Mr Marsh said legal advice was being sought on whether officers could refuse to break the two-metre social distancing rule unless they are vaccinated. Such a move would prevent uncooperative suspects from being arrested because officers would refuse to go closer than two metres.
“We have to break Covid legislation every day of the week,” he said. “What if I turn round and say to my 32,000 members: ‘Adhere totally to Covid legislation.’
“That is not what we want, but if we have to do that to protect my colleagues I will do that. Ministers are just not listening. It is not right police are having to police huge crowds without the jab. Our vulnerability is massive. We don’t have the right to strike, but we are considering sticking to the two-metre rule. We are taking legal advice on it.
“How do you arrest somebody who doesn’t want to be arrested [if you have to stay two metres away]?”
Public spaces such as Primrose Hill, in London, were so busy at the weekends that some onlookers suggested they were reminiscent of crowd scenes at music festivals. There was little evidence of police being interested in breaking up picnickers and drinkers despite current rules that only allow physical exercise.
In Newcastle, crowds flocked to the Quayside area. Police officers were seen patrolling the packed beach at Brighton, on the Sussex coast, speaking to groups but not apparently enforcing the current rules.
In Scarborough, North Yorkshire, officers also spoke to youths drinking on benches, while police stopped traffic on the road to Barry island, a seaside resort in Wales, to inquire whether journeys were essential.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force remained committed to upholding the law but there had to be a “degree of realism” and fines would only be issued in the most serious flouting of regulations such as large-scale, indoor, illegal parties.
Source: The Telegraph