Online portal introduced to report ‘illegal’ gatherings

Humberside Police has introduced an online portal for the public to report group gatherings that contravene strict government measures introduced last week in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mar 31, 2020
By Paul Jacques

Since the introduction of new police powers to disperse anyone in groups of more than two people, the force said it has seen an increase in the number of calls to its non-emergency 101 number with reports of people not adhering to the guidance.

“While we know everyone is concerned, this is creating additional demand on our service,” it added.

“With this in mind, we have created an online reporting portal, where people can submit a form to advise of any gatherings that are not in adherence with the guidance and ease the demand on 101.”

Head of the force control room, Chris Philpott, said: “We know the vast majority of people are following the guidance issued by the Government in relation to gatherings, however, we are aware there will be individuals who choose not to adhere and, understandably, people do want to report this type of behaviour to us as it is risking lives.

“The online portal has been developed precisely for reports of this nature, where groups have been seen gathered, and has a dedicated team who will receive the report as soon as it is made.

Mr Philpott said reports would be assessed based on the information provided but is urging the public to consider the circumstance before making their report.

“For instance, if a couple and two children are seen in the park, it’s highly likely they are all from the same household and are taking the opportunity for their one form of exercise of the day, which under the guidance is allowed,” he added.

“However, if there is a group of ten people of the same age gathered in a car park, it’s more likely they are not from the same household. We will not be able to deploy officers to every single report of social gatherings that contradict the Government’s advice and dependent on the information within the report will determine our response.

“However, it may be some of the reports are referred on to our partner agencies, our local authorities for example, who could take further action to stop gatherings in certain places.”

Humberside Police has also confirmed that it is not routinely stopping vehicles and does not have any stop-check areas in place across the force area in response to Covid-19.

It follows an incident in the Brandesburton area of East Yorkshire on Friday (March 27) when a woman reported she was signalled to pull over by two men in a dark grey coloured vehicle at around 9.25am.

The two men, dressed both in black zip-up hoodies, carrying walkie-talkies and wearing ear pieces, asked where she was driving to and if it was essential, and then demanded she pay a £60 on-the-spot fine in cash for unnecessary travel. The woman refused and the two men got back into their car and drove off.

Chief Superintendent Darren Downs said: “I would like to make clear that our current approach to new legislation and powers does not involve routinely stopping any vehicles to enquire where people are driving to and if it’s an essential journey.

“In our general day-to-day policing role, we do stop vehicles where there is a reason to do so, for instance driving erratically, speeding or without due care or attention, and this will continue.

“However, there are no check points or stop areas in place and drivers will not be pulled over by officers to just ask where they are going, unless it is in response to a specific event, for example, we see or become aware of a number of vehicles that are travelling to a mass gathering.

“Our approach to policing the new rules is around engagement with the public as opposed to enforcement, and with any of the powers, we will always try to talk to people first and explain the situation, to encourage individuals to adhere to the Government’s guidance.

“The fines that have been granted as a power to use as part of the new legislation are a very last resort, and if enforced, they would never be an ‘on-the-spot’ fine. A fixed penalty notice would be issued to the individual with the instructions on how to pay within a certain period of time.”

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