Cambridge Police deny checking supermarkets for 'non-essential' shopping

10 April 2020, 13:40

Cambridge Police posted the message on Twitter
Cambridge Police posted the message on Twitter. Picture: Cambridge police

By Maddie Goodfellow

Cambridge police has been forced to clarify its social distancing guidelines after a tweet claimed that they were monitoring supermarkets for non-essential shopping.

In the now deleted tweet, the force said: "Officers visited Tesco Barhill this morning as part of their patrols around supermarkets and green spaces this weekend.

"Good to see everyone was abiding by social distancing measures and the non-essential aisles were empty."

However, the post received backlash from people asking what exactly counts as non essential and how the police would decide this.


The tweet implied the force were checking "non-essential" aisles
The tweet implied the force were checking "non-essential" aisles. Picture: Cambridge Police

However, in a follow up tweet Cambridge Police clarified: "The force position, in line with national guidance, is that we are not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets.

"This message was sent with good intentions by an over exuberant officer who has been spoken to since this tweet was published.

"Whilst the majority of people in our communities are abiding by the social distancing measures we have had to issue a small number of fines to those who are flouting the rules. None of these have been in relation to shopping or supermarket visits."

In another incident, South Yorkshire Police apologised for a "well-intentioned but ill-informed" exchange in which an officer appeared to tell a family they were not allowed to play in their own front garden.

In a video posted on Twitter, a police officer tells a resident in Eastwood, Rotherham, to stay inside because "the virus does not stop on your front garden".

The force later tweeted: "This encounter was well-intentioned but ill-informed and we'd like to apologise for the way it was handled.

"We've spoken to the officer concerned and made our approach absolutely clear. Again, we apologise for any inconvenience caused & will continue our work to support the NHS."

It comes after The Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Thursday that police checking supermarket trolleys is "not appropriate" after a chief constable threatened to implement the measure to police the coronavirus regulations.

Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley has since backtracked on his comments, describing his language as "clumsy".

Mr Adderley had said his force would consider roadblocks, marshalling supermarkets, and searching through shopping baskets and trolleys if people continued to flout the rules, saying their "three-week grace period" of educating and informing people had now ended.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, he said: "If things don't improve, and we don't get the compliance we would expect, then the next stage will be road blocks and it will be stopping people to ask why they are going, where they're going.

"This is about reasonableness and if people are not reasonable in terms of the journeys and the trips they are taking, they are going to fall foul of the law.

"We will not, at this stage, be setting up road blocks. We will not, at this stage, start to marshal supermarkets and checking the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it's a legitimate, necessary item.

"But again, be under no illusion, if people do not heed the warnings and the pleas I'm making today, we will start to do that."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that approach "is not the guidance".

Speaking to Talk Radio, she said: "That's not appropriate, let me be clear about that.

"That is not the guidance, that is not down to the measures we've been adopting thus far.

"I think though, what we should just say about this weekend, in particular, is the weather is going to be good, it's Easter, we really do need to all take responsibility here, and it's not about overreach."

Downing Street said shops that are allowed to remain open during the lockdown are free to sell whatever items they have in stock.

Asked about the idea of police patrolling particular supermarket aisles to see what people are buying, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We set out a list of shops which could remain open and if the shops are on that list then they are free to sell whatever they have in stock.

"Obviously provided it's legal to do so."