Police warn ‘we can’t enforce Rule of Six’ ahead of social rules clampdown

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Police across England have warned they may struggle to enforce new lockdown restrictions, days before the new 'Rule of Six' is set to come into force across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced to the UK "we must act" as he announced a raft of stronger social distancing measures centred around "the rule of six" at Downing Street on Wednesday.

The new laws will make it illegal to gather in groups of more than six from Monday in England in an effort to prevent a second wave of the deadly coronavirus.

In an interview on BBC Breakfast, health secretary Matt Hancock said the new rules would be “rigorously enforced by the police”, but officers have warned that forces no longer have the capacity to proactively check if people are following them.

Figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) show that crime has risen back to pre-coronavirus levels following a sharp drop during the tightest period of lockdown.

And now, The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, said there has been “confusion for the public and many people don’t know exactly what the law says” – and that officers may struggle to enforce the new rules.

Chair John Apter said: “For policing, these constant changes to legislation are becoming the norm.

"The pressures on policing have increased significantly over recent months, and this latest change will add to this pressure.”

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Brian Booth, chair of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said officers “simply can’t enforce” the new restrictions, adding: “We just don’t have the resources, the world has woken up again and it’s busy.

“We’re back to dealing with threat, risk and harm – domestics, assaults, missing people, mental health incidents, road accidents and everything that comes under normal policing.

“Resources are outstripped with that demand, never mind adding on Mrs Miggins reporting that seven people are having a barbecue next door.”

Mr Booth added police wanted to support the public health response but “have to prioritise” incidents where there is an immediate risk.

Zoë Wakefield, chair of Hampshire Police Federation, echoed the warning and said the “police cannot be expected to deal with everything”.

She added: “There is much confusion among the public. Calls to the police and crime levels are almost as they were pre-Covid.

“The police do not have additional resources to allocate to Covid-related matters, so this places extra demands on officers who are already working near capacity.”

  • Boris Johnson
  • Coronavirus
  • Lockdown

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