An “obsession” with debating lockdown rules is getting in the way of the aim to bring coronavirus infections under control, North Yorkshire’s police boss has said.
Julia Mulligan, the county’s police, fire and crime commissioner, said some people are spending too much time debating how far rules can be stretched rather than playing their part in controlling the pandemic.
“This isn’t about the rules,” she told a North Yorkshire County Council meeting today. “This is about a virus and stopping the spread.
“Sometimes the debate and our obsession with the rules gets in the way of that overall thing that we need to do, and that is just to stay at home”.
Mrs Mulligan’s comments come in response to questions and confusion around the government’s stay local instruction.
Stay local means “remaining in the village, town, or part of the city where you live,” government guidance says, and ministers and police officials have moved to clear up confusion and firm up compliance.
Under the lockdown rules, people must stay at home and only go out for daily exercise, essential supplies, medical and childcare reasons, education, religious worship, moving house, and working or volunteering where it is “unreasonable” to work from home.
If you do leave home for one of these reasons, you should stay local – unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work.
If you don’t have a “reasonable excuse,” police can fine you £200 for a first offence – doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
Mrs Mulligan said: “If you are in any doubt about whether your journey is essential or not, it probably isn’t.”
Since the new national lockdown began on 6 January, North Yorkshire Police has issued 107 fixed penalty notices for breaches of the coronavirus regulations. That figure is more than double the amount issued during the first week of the first national lockdown last year.
In total, the police force has issued more than 2,000 fines since the start of the pandemic.
Superintendent Mike Walker said the force had faced “intense scrutiny” for its approach to policing the pandemic, particularly when it carried out border checks in December, but added officers would continue to be “robust”.
He also said officers would deal with stay local breaches on an “individual basis” using “common sense”.
“There are blatant breaches left, right and centre and I am confident that my staff understand what local means,” superintendent Walker said.