Police today warned that people who leave their homes will be forced to explain themselves – saying lockdown breachers will no longer be “reasoned with”.
The number of £200 fines in London is set to soar after the Met announced officers will be more “inquisitive” – carrying out stops to find out why people are out and about.
The force, the largest in England, this morning announced that people committing “obvious, wilful and serious breaches” will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt.
It comes as the government faces calls to allow police to enter people’s homes to break up gatherings following an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.
The Met said officers will accept fewer “reasonable excuses” for people being away from their homes, and those not wearing masks when they should be are more likely to be slapped with a fine.
The force said it has instructed officers to issue £200 fines “more quickly” – having previously focused on “explaining, and encouraging”.
Rulebreakers can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
Random stops will be carried out to find if people have legitimate reasons for leaving their homes.
It comes two days after Boris Johnson plunged England back into a national lockdown following a huge surge in Covid-19 cases which threatens to overwhelm the NHS and cost thousands of lives.
The new measures became legally enforceable today after being backed by MPs.
David Jamieson, police and crime commissioner for England’s second biggest force, West Midlands Police, this week called for officers to be given powers to force entry into the homes of suspected coronavirus law breakers.
He said: “For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.
“I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.”
Londoners will be fined for not wearing masks in indoor public spaces unless they have an exemption on health grounds, the Met confirmed this morning.
In a statement, police said: “In practice this will mean that all those attending parties, unlicensed music events or large illegal gatherings, can expect to be fined – not just the organisers of such events.
“Similarly, those not wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with.”
It continued: “Additionally, with fewer “reasonable excuses” for people to be away from their home in the regulations, Londoners can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about.”
Reasons people are allowed to leave their home are:
Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating.
Education and childcare
Meeting others and care – You can leave home to visit people in your support bubble, to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble, to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, to attend a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care
Exercise – You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble
Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home, hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.
Communal worship and life events
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Met’s response to the Covid pandemic, said: “After ten months of this pandemic the number of people who are genuinely not aware of the restrictions and the reasons they are in place is vanishingly small.
“We know the overwhelming majority of Londoners will do the right thing by staying at home, wearing masks and not gathering, but a small minority continue to ignore rules put in place to protect the NHS and save lives.
“Our first duty as police officers is to preserve life. The critical situation our NHS colleagues are facing and the way the new virus variant moves through communities, means we can no longer spend our time explaining or encouraging people to follow rules where they are wilfully and dangerously breaching.
“Less than a month ago we launched a new digital fines system which makes it quicker and easier for officers to issue fines on the spot.
“Since its launch more people have been reported for fines than in the rest of the year combined; this is also an indicator of a worsening position in the epidemic, and officers stepping in more quickly to try to keep communities safe.
“I hope it is not necessary for this particular trend to carry on but if people continue to break the rules, putting themselves, their families and their communities at greater risk, our officers are ready to act robustly.
“This is why Londoners must take action now to stop this virus spreading further across our city. Action now by everyone will help reduce the time our Capital must live with these restrictions and crucially, will prevent more people from dying needlessly because of this virus. It’s up to us all to do the right thing.”