Stalking dog walkers, fines for unauthorised car journeys, telling Britons to snitch on their neighbours, and arresting protesters at Britain’s sacred space for free speech are just some examples of British policing during 2020, the year of the Chinese virus.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson passed the emergency coronavirus legislation on March 23rd, he also gave police expanded powers to enforce it, telling Britons: “If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including fines and dispersing gatherings.”
‘Have you got a licence for that fresh air?’
No sooner had police been given the powers than they were flexing their muscles in using them, oftentimes publishing details of supposed COVID crimes on social media.
Derbyshire Police was exposed as one of the most zealous police forces, provoking the condemnation of a former Supreme Court judge, and came to media attention when its officers cracked down on rural dog walkers, following them with drones and uploading the footage to social media in an effort to shame them for exercising in an unapproved fashion. Two months later, the same force went to extremes to discourage swimmers by dyeing a lagoon in a beauty spot black.
Some months later, Greater Manchester Police shamed a man on social media for breaching social distancing laws by having a cup of tea at his friend’s house, fining him £200.
Warrington Police, meanwhile, relished in telling the public that it had fined a man for going for a drive out of boredom and penalising a household for walking to the shops to buy ‘non-essentials’.
London's Metropolitan Police Force is appealing to the public to report "hate crime related to the Covid-19 pandemic". https://t.co/8ocQRe6j1Q
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) April 1, 2020
Speaking of ‘non-essentials’, in April one force suggested that it would police shoppers’ baskets and trollies for items that were not considered essential. Officers also were said to have harassed convenience store owners, telling them not to sell chocolate Easter eggs because they were not considered essential items.
Six weeks after the rules were imposed, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ordered a review of every charge, conviction, and sentence related to the COVID laws following reports that police were wrongfully charging people.
However, their zeal for fining Britons has not abated, with a report from November that South Yorkshire Police had handed out £100,000 worth of fines for the Hallowe’en weekend alone.
Just this month, police were accused of “intimidating” and harassing punters and staff in English pubs while enforcing rules that alcohol could only be purchased with “substantial” meals, sometimes ordering patrons to leave.
Delingpole: West Midlands Police Stops Illegal Drinking – But Not Machete Attacks https://t.co/fCbwXFcIYP
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 10, 2020
Snitch for the State
September saw the government introduce a limit on public gatherings to six, which resulted in senior ministers, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, enthusiastically telling Britons that if they see their neighbours exceeding those numbers or otherwise breaking lockdown, they should call the police. The policing minister promised the rollout of “COVID Secure Marshalls” to help ensure public “compliance”.
In response to the home secretary saying that she would call the police on her neighbours, Brexit leader Nigel Farage remarked: “Have we become like East Germany where children were encouraged to report on their parents?”
One month later, a senior policing figure called snitching a “civic duty” — with Britons so keen to inform on each other that they swamped police telephone lines in the weeks after the ministers’ encouragement to do so.
A tale of two rules: BLM versus anti-lockdown protests
London Metropolitan Police Service came under criticism this year for its inconsistent policing of Marxist Black Lives Matter protests — where rioters vandalised memorials and violently assaulted police officers — versus peaceful anti-lockdown demonstrations.
In one notable disparity in May, police intervened at an anti-lockdown protest at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner –hallowed ground for British free speech — arresting activists, but the next day intervened little when BLM and Antifa flooded the capital, despite lockdown measures banning mass gatherings.
In June, the Metropolitan Police said that while it acknowledged BLM protests were illegal and posed a health risk, its officers would not be enforcing the law and shutting them down for fear of “serious disorder” and violence.
Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “Judgments, have been made, that people are out in such numbers, feeling so strongly, and are refusing to disperse when asked, that the officers have formed the view that if they were to try at that stage, with those sorts of numbers, to enforce en masse, we probably would have ended up with very serious disorder and a bad situation, a difficult situation, a challenging situation for everybody, turning into a violent situation.”
In a recent episode of disturbing London lockdown policing, riot police were caught on camera by Breitbart London’s Kurt Zindulka questioning London politician David Kurten for the second time, demanding he identify himself while talking to press during an anti-lockdown demonstration.
“I’ve been asked for my name, as if I were a criminal, just for doing an interview with you in London. This is the beginning of fascism,” Mr Kurten said after he was quizzed by police.
“There’s clear bias,” Mr Kurten said. “We’re against the lockdown. But Black Lives Matter protests… are allowed to go ahead… but they are coming and specifically targeting people who are just talking because they think we’re against the lockdown, and we might have opinions that may not be acceptable to those in Westminster.”Kurt Zindulka / Breitbart News
‘This is what a police state looks like’
Former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption is one of the most senior figures in British law to voice concern over government overreach following the passing of emergency coronavirus legislation, and the expanded powers of forces, calling it a “police state”.
Speaking in March, the senior judge — still a member of the Supreme Court’s Supplementary Panel — said of the petty abuses of power exercised by those like Derbyshire Police: “This is what a police state is like — it is a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority, and the police enforce minister’s wishes.”
However, he warned the people of Britain have their part to play in not surrendering their freedoms so readily.
“The real problem is when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away, it’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection from some external threat.
“And the threat is usually a real threat, but usually exaggerated and that is what I fear we are seeing now… We have to recognise that this is how societies become despotisms,” he said.
Escape from Wales: UK Police Set Up Checkpoints with Lockdown Region https://t.co/oVDz1nSi96
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 24, 2020