'Wilful and blatant' COVID rule-breakers will be punished, warns Thames Valley Police

Those who ‘wilfully and blatantly’ ignore lockdown rules will be fined by police, a senior Thames Valley Police officer has warned.

Now that the country is in lockdown once again, the police have the power to issue fines and enforce the rules, according to Chief Superintendent Robert France, Gold Commander for Thames Valley Police’s response to the coronavirus.

However, officers will attempt to engage, explain and encourage people to abide by the restrictions if they have misunderstood the rules or when there is complexity to the guidance.

Chf Ins France said: “I would like to thank you all for your support throughout the pandemic and your continued support of us and other emergency services by following the government legislation and guidance and staying at home to stop the spread, save the NHS, save lives and protect everyone in our communities.

“We all have a duty to stay at home unless there is a valid reason not to be there.

“Our officers will continue to engage, explain and encourage people to abide by the restrictions. Where people have genuinely misunderstood the rules, or where there is an element of complexity, a simple reminder of the regulations is often enough for them to comply.

“However, where we encounter people who are wilfully and blatantly ignoring the laws around coronavirus we will look to enforce.

“We have now all been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for some time, as such many people should be familiar with what is required of them, so where we see people are making a choice and deliberately ignoring the rules they should expect to receive a fine.

There was some confusion caused last week when one ‘keen’ officer stopped motorists on Maidenhead Bridge to challenge them on their travel plans.

Thames Valley Police has since apologised for the incident.

Government guidelines on travel state: “If you need to travel you should stay local, meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live.

It adds outdoor exercise should be ‘done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary’, while shopping for goods and services ‘should be within your local area wherever possible’.

Fixed penalty notices of £200 can be issued to rule breakers, doubling for further offences up to £6,200.

If you are involved in hosting a gathering of 30 people or more you could be fined £10,000.

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