Sussex chief constable condemns ‘appalling’ verbal and physical abuse of officers during Covid-19 breaches
Sussex Police Chief Constable Jo Shiner has condemned a string of Covid-19 breaches over the weekend that saw officers experiencing both verbal and physical abuse as “disappointing and selfish”.
She said the behaviour some officers had to experience “was simply appalling” and promised those responsible would “be dealt with firmly”.
The force also issued its first £10,000 fine under the Coronavirus Regulations to the organiser of an illegal house party involving more than 100 people at a property in Brighton.
Ms Shiner said she was “saddened” that a minority of people were “acting irresponsible by testing the boundaries and, in some cases, blatantly flouting government regulations with a complete disregard for the impact of this disease on others”.
She stressed this was not just students and young people, adding:” This behaviour will not be tolerated and those who choose to knowingly break the rules will be fined. We will be turning up the dial on enforcement where people are blatantly disregarding regulations which risk the acceleration of the spread of Covid in Sussex. This will include additional patrols in hot spot areas where fines will be issued to those who do not comply.”
Ms Shiner said: “I am also disappointed to say that unfortunately, a number of my frontline colleagues over the weekend suffered injuries and were subjected to both verbal and physical abuse. Our officers and staff find themselves in a wide variety of often unpredictable and fast moving situations, however, the behaviour some of them had to experience on the weekend was simply appalling. I continue to be very clear that any assaults on those frontline workers doing their very best to protect the law abiding public will be dealt with firmly.”
As England prepares for a second lockdown, she said police enforcement activity would be stepped up to address the behaviour of people knowingly breaking the rules in the coming days and weeks to help protect the NHS and save lives.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone and we are all being affected by the current situation in one way or another,” said Ms Shiner. “Throughout the entire pandemic, Sussex Police have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the Covid-19 regulations from the vast majority of Sussex residents and visitors who are trying their best to adapt to the changing situation. We will continue to take a proportionate approach, to understand people’s circumstances, and engage, explain and encourage compliance ahead of any enforcement.
“None of us would ever choose to be in our current position, and I empathise hugely with those who have lost loved ones, or whose business and employment has been affected. It is now more important than ever for us all to work together, support one another and ensure we are all adhering to the latest government guidance. We need to protect the NHS and save lives by helping to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Sussex Police said as well as the house party, officers were called to:
- A gathering in Stanmer Park where the group were dispersed and music equipment seized;
- A gathering at the University of Sussex campus in Falmer. where a section 34 dispersal order was issued and warning letters to students issued;
- Disorder in Brighton city centre once pubs and bars were closed at 10pm; and
- Anti-social behaviour being committed by a group of young people in Maidenbower Square, Crawley, where a section 34 dispersal order was issued.
Local authorities and partner across Sussex will be working together to help people manage the latest restrictions.
The Sussex Resilience Forum (SFR) will continue to effectively coordinate the response to the pandemic alongside key partners.
SRF chair Assistant Chief Constable Dave Miller said: “I understand the challenges that this latest lockdown will bring and thank the public for their continued support and cooperation. By following the latest measures they will helping protect the NHS and save lives.
“The SRF will respond to the latest information from the Government regarding the lockdown when it is known. We are committed to continue working as a collective forum to provide support and consistency in the response to the pandemic across Sussex.”
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said she supported the chief constable’s decision to increase enforcement against those who continue to flout Covid rules.
She said: “I recognise how disheartening it is for the public to hear of another lockdown situation but, with Covid cases rising, now is not the time to be indifferent and break the rules put in place to keep us safe and protect our NHS.
“I want to thank the majority of Sussex residents who have played their part during the pandemic. However, it is disappointing that we have had such a show over the weekend of those who want to flout the law.
“I support Chief Constable Shiner’s decision to increase enforcement and I hope that the promise of a significant fine for blatant rule breakers will serve as a strong deterrent at this time.
“The demand on policing is now back to pre-Covid levels… every time an officer is called away to deal with a Covid rule-breaker, that is one less officer available to support a vulnerable person or catch a dangerous criminal.”