New police powers in place amid the coronavirus crisis have come into force today, with fines of £60 and extra controls to break up groups of people.
The Government has today (Thursday, March 26) made new public health regulations strengthening police enforcement powers in England, to reduce the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives.
The new rules have been made to ensure people stay at home and avoid non-essential travel, the Home Office said.
From today, if members of the public do not comply, Devon and Cornwall Police may:
• instruct them to go home, leave an area or disperse.
• ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules.
• issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
• issue a fixed penalty notice of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence.
Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice under the regulations could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.
If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where deemed proportionate and necessary.
The Government said police will ‘always apply their common sense and discretion’.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said: “We are aware of the national legislation announced by the Government this afternoon.
“We are now interpreting this, but will continue to follow national guidance and advice.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The Prime Minister has been clear on what we need to do: stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.
“All our frontline services really are the best of us and are doing an incredible job to stop this terrible virus from spreading.
“That’s why I’m giving the police these new enforcement powers, to protect the public and keep people safe.”
Individuals will only be allowed to leave their home for the following, very limited, purposes:
• shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible.
• one form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of their household.
• any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
• travelling to and from work, but only where they cannot work from home.
Participating in gatherings of more than two people in public spaces is also not permitted except in very limited circumstances, for example, where it is for essential work purposes, said the Home Office.