Three quarters of Brits support police approach to Covid-19 lockdown enforcement

8 April 2020, 10:18

Police have been enforcing lockdown measures in public
Police have been enforcing lockdown measures in public. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Almost three-quarters of the British public support the police approach to the Covid-19 lockdown enforcement, although around a third believe in some cases it has gone too far.

Research commissioned by crime and justice consultancy Crest Advisory asked 1,646 adults between Friday and Sunday how they thought police were handling the new coronavirus emergency laws.

The poll indicated 42 per cent of respondents fully support the approach taken by the police, while 32 per cent said they supported the approach taken by the police but in some cases believed officers were going too far.

To date in the UK there have been 6,159 deaths and over 55,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the Government has issued guidance over when people can leave their homes.

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The rules brought in to help stem the spread of Covid-19 said people should stay at home unless they need to go out for essential food supplies, medicines or for exercise purposes.

The research comes after claims some police forces were overzealous in their approach to policing the new laws and guidance and how officers should act.

With good weather sweeping the county over the weekend many forces deployed officers to parks and areas of natural beauty to enforce lockdown measures.

In some areas officers have set up checkpoints to establish why people were travelling
In some areas officers have set up checkpoints to establish why people were travelling. Picture: PA

Some 14 per cent of people who took part in the survey said the police should take tougher action, while 6 per cent felt the police approach to date had been too heavy-handed.

Just 2 per cent of the public said the police should have no role in enforcing the lockdown.

According to the survey, 72 per cent were comfortable with the police arresting people who failed to comply with an instruction to return home, while 22 per cent were uncomfortable.

A similar proportion (75 per cent) said they were comfortable with police issuing fines to people who breached lockdown rules, while 19% felt uncomfortable about this.

Half of respondents said they were comfortable with police using drones to photograph people making unnecessary journeys - which was the case in Derbyshire - as well as using facial recognition in public places to identify people who were breaching lockdown.

But 43 per cent and 42 per cent respectively felt uncomfortable with these proposals.

Some 70 per cent agreed with the use of roadblocks, but more than half (54 per cent) did not like the idea of naming and shaming those who flouted the rules on social media.

Londoners are the least likely to be fully supportive of the police approach (35 per cent), with people in Scotland the most likely to be fully supportive (48 per cent), the survey indicated.

Joe Caluori, head of policy at Crest Advisory, said: "This survey underlines the challenge police forces have in striking a balance between effective enforcement of the lockdown in order to support public health efforts to tackle Covid-19 and the need to maintain Britain's model of policing by consent."

Police have the power to fine people to enforce lockdown measures
Police have the power to fine people to enforce lockdown measures. Picture: PA

National Police Chiefs' Council chairman Martin Hewitt said: "This is a public health emergency and we need the support of the public in ensuring these social distancing measures are adhered to. Help the NHS and those most vulnerable in our communities by staying home unless your journey is essential. We are grateful to everyone who has already followed this advice.

"Officers may have to ask people about their circumstances if they're outdoors. We will engage with the public, explain the social distancing regulations and the responsibilities we all share, and encourage those who are out without good reason to go back home.

"Where people don't comply, we will direct them to go home, and if necessary we will issue a fine. This is a last resort, but we will use our powers if we have to."

A Home Office spokeswoman added: "Our police are doing a fantastic job keeping us safe and protecting the NHS by ensuring the public stay at home, and using emergency powers only when necessary.

"We're pleased that the vast majority of the public support the police in their approach."