“Don’t shoot the messenger” – that’s the message from Cumbria Police Federation as the Government announces a new ban on social gatherings of more than six people, and calls on the police to disperse groups and issue fines.
The Prime Minister announced that from 14 September the number of people allowed to meet socially in England will be reduced from 30 to six, with reasonable exceptions, and that the police will be able to disperse or fine those who break the rules. The fines will start at £100, doubling on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
Paul Williams, Chairman of Cumbria Police Federation, said: “The new guidelines on social gatherings are no surprise. The Government has to do all it can to keep people safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is still very much here and going nowhere for some time.
“We understand why this is happening – I just hope that the public who will understandably be frustrated will not seek to take it out on those officers trying their best to ensure the guidelines are being adhered to.
“For this to work, the message has to be loud and clear from the Government to prevent confusion and help us do our job. The tone of policing will not differ and engaging/explaining will always be the preferred option, with enforcement a last resort.
“The tone of policing has been critical throughout, and we have got it right. There should also be a clear message of ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’. We are conveying guidelines set in legislation for a very good reason. We don’t enjoy it – it’s a necessity to keep communities safe.”
Paul added that he would like to see other agencies taking more responsibility in ensuring guidelines are adhered to, and “not just leaving this to fall at our feet again”. He said: “We expect others to help and play their role and if they do, we can work together and offer our full support.”
John Apter, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, commented on the new rules, saying: “For policing, these constant changes to legislation are becoming the norm. The pressures on policing have increased significantly over recent months, and this latest change will add to this pressure.”
But John added that the Government must ensure that the public are made aware of the new rules. He said: “The Government needs to play its part. With so many changes in legislation, an effective public information campaign must be a priority – as there’s been so much confusion for the public and many people don’t know exactly what the law says.”