Devon’s top cop tells visitors ‘stay away’ from region as police vow to crack down on large gatherings and groups

Devon and Cornwall Police will crack down on public gatherings and groups of people mixing outside of one household now the Government has relaxed some of the coronavirus lockdown rules.

Chief Constable Sean Sawyer admitted today, May 14, his officers now have no powers to enforce social distancing, mask wearing, or distance of travel, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted restrictions on how far people can travel for exercise or recreation.

The area’s top cop is appealing to visitors to continue to ‘stay away’ from the region for ‘a little longer’ to protect its communities from Covid-19.

Now changes have been made to lockdown restrictions, police in Devon and Cornwall will focus their attention on groups of three people or more outside of one household, or public gatherings, and fine anyone caught flouting the rules .

The Chief Constable said it was ‘important’ to remember the reason behind the rules is to save lives.

CC Sawyer added: “It was always going to be challenging when restrictions began to be relaxed, not only for policing but all agencies and communities.

“It may take a while for people to understand what the new guidance means and so our engagement and education is key.

“We will adapt to the new terms of the regulations and will positively engage with the public as we have been doing for the past two months.

“The latest amendments mean that we have no role in enforcing social distancing, wearing of masks or distance of travel as the Government has made it clear that there are no longer restrictions on how far people can travel to exercise or for open-air recreation.

“There remains a role for the police and our Covid focus will now turn towards groups of three or more people outside of one household, and public gatherings, as these are not lawful under the amended regulations which took effect on 13 May, 2020.

“Where the evidence is clear and as a last resort, officers will use enforcement options that are available to them.

“The police are only responsible for enforcing the law, but our overall aim will continue to be one that sees us engage, educate and encourage people to comply with government guidance.

“My officers do not want to use their enforcement powers, but it is right that they are able to take action against those who disregard the remaining restrictions and in doing so put people at risk.”

The Chief Constable said he believed the vast majority of people understood the seriousness of the virus and would do what was needed to keep themselves, and others, safe.

He urged people from outside of Devon and Cornwall to ‘wait a little longer’ before visiting the region, because cafes, restaurants and public loos remained closed, and beach lifeguard patrols were scant.

“I believe the vast majority of the public understand the seriousness of the virus and will continue to do what is required,” said CC Sawyer.

“Personal responsibility is now key and we are continuing to ask the public to think twice when they leave the house; is it safe and is it fair?”

He added: “My message to those people considering travel into the force area would be that we would love to welcome you back but ask that you wait just a little longer.

“Cafés and restaurants remain closed, there are a lack of open facilities and we do not have lifeguards on all our beaches.

“There has been a national collective effort to protect all communities and we are need this national effort to continue for a little bit longer.

“For residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, we want you to be able to enjoy the extra independence you have been given in relation to exercise and open-air recreation, but we want you to do so safely.

“It’s important that we all remember that our actions count and can affect others.

“Feedback from within communities across Devon and Cornwall is that they would prefer each other to stay local.

“It is important individuals undertake appropriate social distancing measures and ensure that they do not gather in groups with people from outside their home.

“It is important we all think about the impact our actions can have, whether that be on our rural, coastal or urban areas.”

Devon and Cornwall’s chief constable urged people to ‘think twice’ about their own actions, while thanking the public for its support during the current crisis.

CC Sawyer said: “Communities across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have always looked out for each other, but I feel that this connection is now even stronger.

“There has been a societal shift towards one that is showing a greater level of kindness and compassion, and it is this kindness and compassion which will see us through the following weeks and months.

“Fairness will weigh heavily and people will question the actions of others, which is why I will ask you all to think twice about your own actions.

“We would like to thank our public for their support. We will continue to do our best to work with them and where we do not have the powers to enforce, we will maintain our current approach of engage, educate and encourage.

“It is important we remember why we are all being asked to do this, which is to save lives.”

East Devon: Holidaymakers and second home owners told to stay away despite lockdown changes


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