The National Police Chiefs’ Council has said that it will instruct forces to fine people trying to leave Tier 4 areas of England; however, the Police Federation has said officers have no power to stop travellers to check if they are making “unlawful” Christmas visits.
Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised citizens five days of relaxed lockdown rules over the five days of Christmas, only at the last minute on Saturday to throw London and most of the South East of England — encompassing some 16 million people — into a newly-revealed Tier 4, not only prohibiting travel outside of the zone, but banning all households mixing without exception, effectively outlawing family Christmases.
On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared to suggest that the police would be questioning people leaving the highest lockdown areas. The NPCC’s Martin Hewitt said that while they would not be putting up roadblocks, it would exercise its powers to fine people.
“We will step up visibility to encourage the public to follow the rules. There is no intention to establish road blocks or routinely stop vehicles,” Hewitt said, according to The Guardian.
“Where necessary, we will enforce through the use of a fixed penalty notice,” he added.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also said that extra British Transport Police will be deployed at train stations “to ensure only those who need to take essential journeys can travel safely”.
However, one police source told The Telegraph that “there is no ‘Covid power’ to stop vehicles. There won’t be an awful lot we can do if lots of people hit the roads on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. We won’t be closing roads to prevent it.”
The Police Federation, which represents the rank and file officers, also said that the rules were “unenforceable”.
Ken Marsh, the federation’s chief, said: “I would accept there is legislation put in place but as a police officer who has been doing the job for a long time, it’s not enforceable.
“Your functionality to perform your duty is nigh on impossible if they don’t tell you the truth. If they think they are going to get a fine, they won’t tell you the truth.”
Exclusive Video: ‘The Government Are the Criminals!’ — Police Clash with Anti-Lockdown Protesters in London https://t.co/V7uwm5qLeQ
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Prime Minister Johnson announced the regions to be locked down in Tier 4 just a few hours before they went into effect on Sunday. The result was crowds of Britons at London’s train stations on Saturday, who were desperate to get to their families for the holidays before it became illegal.
Health Secretary Hancock scolded travellers, branding them “totally irresponsible”, and saying they should have done as Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Witty ordered, which was to “unpack their bags if they have them packed”.
Sir Charles Walker MP, the vice-chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, accused the government of intentionally waiting until after Parliament rose for Christmas recess to announce Tier 4, in order to avoid a vote in the House of Commons.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: “I suspect the government knew they were going to cancel Christmas on Wednesday and Thursday when they were still telling the House of Commons they planned to press ahead.”
Adding: “I think many colleagues find that extremely egregious. The Christmas period was passed into law by the House of Commons in a vote after a debate. The view of most colleagues was that, to be changed, another vote would be required in the House of Commons. So I suspect a decision was delayed until we were safely away back to our constituencies.”
Trump Slams BoJo's Christmas Lockdown: 'Cure Cannot Be Worse Than Problem' https://t.co/AuQ4020fbg
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