Yorkshire police to fine people who break 'stay at home' rules from Thursday

A senior Yorkshire police chief says officers in the region will be given powers to hand out fines to people flouting the Government's new 'stay at home' directives by Thursday.

North Yorkshire Police's Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker said he was "impatiently waiting" to get the powers from government to enforce the orders given to the nation by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic.

A group of young men are spoken to by Kent Police officers before being dispersed from a children's play area in Mote Park, Maidstone, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PA Photo.

A group of young men are spoken to by Kent Police officers before being dispersed from a children's play area in Mote Park, Maidstone, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PA Photo.

Mr Walker, who leads the force's Gold Command meetings to lead the local response, said the powers would give officers "the tools to enable us to to reprimand those individuals who are not doing as they're told and not staying at home".

And he said today would be a 'litmus test' as to whether residents in England's largest county were following the Government's new rules that they should only leave the house for essential shopping or medical needs, one form of exercise per day or travelling to work if absolutely necessary.

Read more: The volunteers driven to 'do something' to support those isolated by coronavirus

Speaking at a public accountability meeting streamed online, he said people will be asked questions "they wouldn't normally be asked" as officers assess how many people are breaking the rules.

Mike Walker, Assistant Chief Constable at North Yorkshire Police

Mike Walker, Assistant Chief Constable at North Yorkshire Police

He said: "What I've instructed and asked for this morning is that officers are out of the cars, they're on the high streets, they're around the supermarkets, they're in residential areas, they're in those coastal areas, the likes of Hawes and other tourist areas, asking people questions.

"Because if there are groups wandering around, or individuals wandering around, it's there's nothing wrong with those local officers asking the question, are they picking up essential shopping, are they picking up essential medicine, are they doing a chore on behalf of somebody, because that advice needs to be given at this point in a neighbourhood policing style.

"The public will see people getting pulled over. If we see motorbikes going around the county there will be pulled over and asked are they going to work or coming home from work, or they're going to get essential shopping.

"At the end of the day, I'll be getting an assessment as a goal commander, are the public of North Yorkshire listening to what the government advises. "And if they aren't listening, then obviously we will be more robust in how we then police and in terms of how we communicate with the public because it's really, really important they listen to what was said to them last night.

"People will be spoken to, and they will be asked questions that wouldn't normally be asked. We're not in the not that normal state of policing unfortunately now."

Asked when the new powers would be handed to police to enforce the new rules, he said: "I keep asking the question in terms of when we're when we're going to be able to use them because I am impatiently wanting to get those powers given to the police officers and staff as quickly as possible.

"It's expected it's going to be Thursday. Hopefully, it will be before then."

North Yorkshire Chief Constable Lisa Winward told the meeting that her force still wanted to police by consent and by engaging with the public.

She said: "So in the first instance I suppose the reassurance is, our policing style will be just as it is now, engaging and talking to members of the public and encouraging them to do the right thing for our health service.

"But we absolutely need the backup of those policies and legislation, so that those people who won't comply don't put the rest of the community at risk."