'We will take action on those who don't abide by the Covid-19 regulations,' says South Yorkshire police chief

‘We have no intention of sacrificing what people have achieved on the wings of the very small and selfish minority, says South Yorkshire Police’s most senior officer.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 12:38 pm
Chief Constable Stephen Watson.

South Yorkshire Police's Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, has outlined the forces policing approach to the latest Covid-19 restrictions and has insisted that action will be taken if people do not abide by the regulations.

Mr Watson said that officers would try to engage, encourage and educate people about the rules, with enforcement being the last option but now that looks to change.

Speaking to the Sheffield Star, he said: “There is something of a subtle recalibration in our approach. Six months ago this was entirely new and it isn't entirely new now.

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"You'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who hasn't come to understand the importance of the regime that we are all having to put up with.

“In respect to that very small number of people who are perhaps blatantly flouting the regulations, we will start moving to get reinforcement more quickly.

“There are some very small pockets of failure to comply with the regulations, and I think increasingly the public would expect that whilst we continue to operate as we have done, fairly and constructively and helpfully and proportionately, that we will also take action in respect of those who will simply not abide by the regulations.

"I think that there is a growing sense that if we are all in this together comes to mean anything, it should mean that we stand together so we can emerge on the other side of this dreadful covid epidemic, the sooner.”

He added: “To fail to enforce risks putting at risk all of the hard-won gains that have been achieved through people's stoicism and their acceptance of a very severe restriction on their personal liberties.

“So we have no intention of sacrificing what people have achieved on the wings of the very small and selfish minority.”

In light of the new 10pm curfew and other measures announced last week, police now have extra powers to fine anyone who flouts the rules.

Failure to comply with face-covering measures could now result in a £200 fine for a first offence that will then double for each offence after, up to a maximum of £6400.

Businesses that are non-complient of the 10pm curfew or other measures risk being hit with a hefty fine of £10,000.

Police forces all over the country have stepped up patrols in areas with establishments to check that people are following the latest measures.

In terms of dealing with the new legislation, Mr Watson said that ‘so far’ it has been ‘so good’ and added that it is not the first time in our history where we have had closing times like the ones introduced recently.

However, he stated that there are some practical issues with the recent licensing legislation.

Mr Watson said: “It follows that if people are enjoying themselves as they have every right to do in well-conducted licensed premises. If they all leave at exactly the same time then social distancing becomes more problematic because everybody is out on the pavement at the same time.

“So I do think that people have something of a responsibility to just manage their night out, particularly if you have gone out and enjoyed a few pints, the reality is that you are not going to be able to drive home, so you will be making for the use of public transport at the same time as everybody else.

“It seems to me that you perhaps just need to think about that in terms of competition of resources to get yourselves home, perhaps better to make arrangements for those who you are in a protective bubble with to come and pick you up or something of that description.”

He added: “Insofar as the pubs are concerned, obviously we are working very closely with local authority partners and others to make sure that we keep on the side of those publicans who are doing the right thing.

“Just like the public, the vast majority of publicans are working very hard to make sure that they can look after their customers in a Covid secure way.

“We really do want to support them in doing that and similarly where you have the odd errant licensee or somebody who is irresponsible in the way that they are managing or failing to manage their premises then we will be clamping down on them because it is just not fair to the vast majority of businesses, many of whom, let's not forget are struggling to sustain their businesses.

“People are losing their lives and their livelihoods at the moment and so for many businesses they are desperate to comply with the regulations so that they will still have a business in six months time, and they can still keep people in work and provide the services that we all enjoy.

“So we very much stand with those people, and we will not countenance those who through their own irresponsibility upset what it is that those good people are trying to achieve.”

The Chief Constable also announced that the force expect an increase in the issuance of fixed penalty notices for those who demonstrate a blatant flouting of the regulations.

He said: “Our enforcement will likely increase, simply because I think we have to start now quite reasonably to be slightly less tolerant of those who are not complying with the regulation on the basis that they just didn't understand. That now possibly is wearing a bit thin in the minds of the wider public.”