Essex Police statement from Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet:
I AM really pleased that officers report from their patrols across Essex that, in the vast majority of cases, people are only out for the essential reasons set out in the Government and Public Health England guidance. Officers have been met with comments of support for their work and again I would like to thank the public of Essex for this.
The Government has introduced enforcement powers to allow police forces to deal with people who do not comply with sensible social distancing. The approach we are taking is to advise, explain and appeal to people to do the right thing, only using enforcement when it is absolutely necessary. We know most people in our county want to do the right thing, protect the NHS and ultimately save lives.
Enforcement will be a last resort. Where it is absolutely necessary, and reasoned conversations have failed, officers will direct people to return home. This may include providing instruction as to the route by which people are required to return. Officers are empowered to take people home, using reasonable force and powers of arrest where it is necessary to do so. I want to stress, we see this as a last resort and something we hope will not be necessary. Officers will continue to make sensible decisions, using their professional judgement and discretion in the exercise of all their powers; from persuasion through to enforcement.
What the new legislation means:
People should only leave home for the reasons listed in Government guidance which can be found by visiting gov.uk/coronavirus;
Police can instruct gatherings of three or more people to disperse and / or remove any person from that gathering to their home;
Anyone outdoors without a valid reason may be committing an offence and can face a fine. For those continuing to disregard these requirements, they can face further fines or a summary conviction. If a fine is paid, there is no criminal offence committed.
The initial fine is a fixed penalty notice of £60. This is lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days. Refusal to pay will lead to proceedings in the magistrates court.
Essex Police is very much part of the community. We are all in this together. Please help all those working tirelessly around the clock to keep you safe. Where you possibly can please stay at home and help to save lives.