Police chiefs have warned people who ignore coronavirus restrictions to be prepared to “face the consequences of greater levels of enforcement” as England heads into its second national lockdown this week.
In an open letter, the chief constables of five forces in the north west of the country said they would “collectively target” the minority of the public who flout the rules by holding large gatherings, music events and parties.
The senior officers also said they were seeking support from the Government and judiciary to consider how they can rapidly bring to justice those who choose to ignore coronavirus-related fines.
The message from the forces covering Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside comes after a period of tightened restrictions for much of the North West due to the high numbers of Covid-19 cases.
Strict new rules are expected to be rolled out for the whole of England from one minute after midnight on Thursday, as a new lockdown comes into force.
In their letter, the senior officers said they had seen first hand “the misery the pandemic has caused” but had received “great support from the majority of our communities”.
They said their forces had taken a “very measured” approach to enforcement and used a model of “engage, explain, encourage and only as a last resort, enforce” in relation to issuing fines.
“Sadly we have seen a minority right across the North West who seem incapable of demonstrating any civic responsibility and complying with regulations,” the chief constables added.
They said the public wanted a “consistent and robust” approach to enforcement and that the introduction of local restrictions had seen forces take a “firmer stance” over restrictions and move more quickly to issue fixed penalty notices.
Ahead of a second national lockdown, they urged the public to continue complying with Covid-19 related rules.
They wrote: “We know how hard this is, but we need to maintain that shared purpose we had in the first lockdown to defeat the virus and, ultimately, save lives.
Addressing potential rule breakers, the chief constables added: “To the minority who feel the restrictions don’t apply to them be prepared to face the consequences of greater levels of enforcement.
“We will collectively target those who flout the restrictions, particularly those organising large gatherings and music events, repeatedly holding parties or deliberately causing harm to our communities by not following the restrictions such as self-isolating where necessary.
“Where we have issued Fixed Penalty notices a significant proportion of recipients think they can ignore them.
“We are therefore seeking support from Government and the Judiciary to consider how we bring these people to justice rapidly.”
The letter was signed by Darren Martland, Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary, Michelle Skeer, Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary, Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Andy Rhodes, Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary and Andy Cooke, Chief Constable of Merseyside Police.