Coronavirus: Former police chief urges public to stay home during good weather

4 April 2020, 11:20

What powers do the police have now because of coronavirus? Police chief answers

By Seán Hickey

A former chief constable told Andrew Castle what the police are allowed to enforce on the public to maintain social distancing rules.

Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police was on the line to share his views on how the police were coping with new coronavirus rules and how they were enforcing them.

Sir Peter told Andrew Castle that because the new legislation "came in overnight" it was difficult for police to quickly and efficiently enforce the legislation without controversy.

"We're doing this in a very British way" the former chief constable said. He told Andrew that by the forces gently enforcing by mainly speaking with citizens rather than being heavy handed with fines and sentences is the typically British attitude to policing, and has so far gone well in comparison to other European countries. Mr. Fahy told Andrew that in comparison to France, the British police force has issued next to no fines, with the French numbers in the tens of thousands.

"People saying we're sliding towards a police state are wide of the mark" Sir Peter said, insisting that the police approach so far has been commendable.

Police have been given new permission to issue fines to people breaking social distancing rules
Police have been given new permission to issue fines to people breaking social distancing rules. Picture: PA

Andrew asked Sir Peter exactly what powers the police now have to enforce coronavirus legislation to the public.

The former chief constable told Andrew that the main powers the police force has to enforce coronavirus legislation are power to disperse groups, power to close premises and the power to issue fixed penalties. He was sure to point out that most of these powers were already had by the forces and there is nothing new in the police having these permissions, only that they're enforcing them for different reasons.

Mr. Fahy told Andrew that the new legislation works best due to the fact that the public understand the need for it generally and that the public have taken the recommendations positively, meaning that the British public are going by the rules.

After forecasts predicting a warm and bright weekend, the police's reaction to people making the most of the good weather will come under scrutiny. Sir Peter appealed to the public saying "this weekend it's especially important we comply and save lives".