Leicestershire Police demands clarity over role in local lockdown
Officers from Leicestershire Police are calling for urgent clarification of their role in enforcing the localised lockdown on the city of Leicester, which came into force earlier today (June 30).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced enhanced restrictions after it emerged that ten per cent of all positive Covid-19 cases in England over the past week occurred in Leicester. The infection rate is three times higher than that of the next highest city.
Under the enhanced measures, non-essential shops and schools will close. People are also being told to avoid all non-essential travel to, from or within the city and to stay home as much as possible. While pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers will be allowed to open across England from July 4, this will not apply to Leicester.
Leicestershire Police said in a statement: “This is a dynamic situation and we will adjust accordingly providing proportionate policing under the relevant legislation to help keep people safe in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Our approach has always been clear that we will use the four Es – Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce where necessary. We continue to encourage communities to follow the Government’s guidelines.”
However, Dave Stokes, chair of the Leicestershire Police Federation, said experience of the national lockdown made it clear that keeping the public in check under such circumstances would be extremely challenging.
Mr Stokes said: “With news of the practicalities of the ‘Leicester Lockdown’ still emerging, we will be working with chief officers at Leicestershire Police on how this new direction affects our members and the public we serve.
“It’s essential we get clarity from the Government as soon as possible on what the public can and can’t do in this targeted lockdown. As we have seen over recent weeks and months, if the guidance and messaging from government is confusing for the public then it will be almost impossible for our colleagues to police.
“We still wait for confirmation on what our colleagues’ exact roles will be in policing, and potentially enforcing, this ‘Leicester Lockdown’, and what legislation our members will be asked to use. We have seen examples from across the country that ‘common sense’ is impossible to police.”
Lord Willy Bach, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland said: “As the first localised lockdown, we are the pathfinders. Amazingly we were not even provided with a map of the area until well after the announcement. That has now been issued, but, unfortunately, we received minimal guidance regarding practical implementation at the time the measures were imposed.
“I have a great deal of sympathy with the agencies charged with delivery. They needed clarity from the start, and I am astonished that it is being drip-fed as the day progresses. We wait to see what, if any, legislation will accompany support measures. From the enforcement side, I know that the police must wait to see what the Statutory Instrument will deliver.
“Leicestershire Police was applauded for the sensible way in which it policed the initial lockdown. This time will be no different.
“We are in a rapidly changing environment. By the end of the day, we should know more. Our local authorities and the public at large needs clear cut information to navigate the next two weeks with confidence and to maximum effect. Many people are going to be adversely affected, particularly the vulnerable and those at risk of abuse. We will do our utmost to protect them; but the overall impact will be widespread with significant implications for all of us – socially, financially, professionally or for physical and mental health.
“I will work with the police to ensure that people have the support they need, when they need it and I welcome the Health Secretary’s assurance that extra resources will be made available. I will be pressing for these resources to be released as and when they are needed. It’s also critical that up-to-date information is made available. This will provide a better understanding of what is happening and why; alongside the progress being made to control the virus. That, in turn, provides people to make informed judgements and decisions”