Rethink on enforcement of Covid rule breaks needed, says deputy mayor

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 6:08pm

By Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter @niallgriffiths

The deputy mayor of Greater Manchester has called for a rethink on policing coronavirus restrictions, after revealing that less than half of lockdown fines have been paid.

Baroness Beverley Hughes (pictured) says enforcement is ‘the only tool in the government’s box of tricks’ and has suggested that a new approach is needed.

Police are finding it ‘impossible’ to enforce ‘resented’ measures introduced in Greater Manchester in late July according to the deputy mayor, who oversees policing for the combined authority.

The release of certain boroughs from the tighter measures, as well as the reapplication of the restrictions in Bolton and Trafford, is also creating confusion for Greater Manchester Police.

Baroness Hughes told a media briefing on Wednesday: “It’s time that we looked at this whole issue of enforcement, important though it has been early on in this period when there was much greater clarity on what the public was being asked to do in order to protect ourselves.

“The restrictions on family gatherings if both resented by the public, who see it as inconsistent with being allowed to mix with family and friends in a pub garden, and it’s also virtually impossible to enforce.

“We’ve now got variation across Greater Manchester about which restrictions apply and that makes it difficult to enforce, and we’ve also got confusion and complete lack of clarity by the government oscillating in terms of what restrictions should apply where.

“This is bringing the whole enforcement part of the equation into disrepute.”

When the national lockdown was imposed on March 26 it came with new legislation which gave police forces the power to issue fines to those who failed to comply with the rules.

Between March and May GMP gave out 305 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) but only 143 of those have been paid.

Baroness Hughes said: “Less than 50 per cent issued with the notice think it’s worth paying.

“They may end up in court but the situation in court is such, with their backlogs, they may not.There’s a lack of credibility now in relation to those powers of enforcement.

“For enforcement to be an effective contribution to managing and minimising the spread of the virus, it’s gotta to make sense to the public, and it’s got to be feasible for the police to implement.”

Over the August bank holiday GMP received over 12,000 calls from the public through its 999 and 101 services.

There were also 600 reports made to the police regarding Covid-related incidents – including 400 reports of house parties – and licensing breaches.

Three young people were left on ventilators after taking LSD at a party over the weekend, according to Baroness Hughes.

Police officers and council licensing officials also visited more than 500 licensed premises to check on track and trace systems, leading to 11 arrests.

In non-Covid related incidents GMP dealt with several serious assaults and two murders in the past week.

There were also protests held in Manchester city centre by Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion campaigners, with Baroness Hughes saying those taking part mostly kept to social distancing.

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