MORE than 1,000 fines have been handed out by police in Hampshire and Dorset since the lockdown came into force to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Following the government’s recent easing of the restrictions, both forces have said they cannot enforce social distancing but can deal with mass gatherings of people from different households.
All forces across the country were empowered by parliament to issue fixed penalty notices to those found in breach, although both Hampshire and Dorset police said advice would always be issued first with the fines a “last resort”.
In Hampshire 244 fines were handed out to members of the public between 27th March and last Monday, but 808 were issued by Dorset officers between 27th March and last Thursday.
A Hampshire police spokesperson said: “As many of us are now able to spend much more time outdoors, including the visiting of beauty spots across Hampshire, we all need to take responsibility ourselves for doing that within the restrictions set out by the government.”
The easing of the lockdown prompted Dorset Police and partner agencies to call for the public to use their common sense and “think twice” before travelling to the county.
Chief Constable James Vaughan said: “Now there has been an expansion to the reasonable excuses, which allows the public to spend more time away from their homes for shopping, work and exercise.
“We enforce the law and not government guidance or advice, so we have no role to play in enforcing social distancing, the wearing of masks or avoiding public transport.
“We still have a responsibility where people are gathering in large groups with those not in their household, as this is not legally permitted in the regulations.”
The lockdown easing now means people in England can collect goods from a business permitted to remain open, and visit recycling centres, garden centres and outdoor sport courts.
They can also take part in property-related activities – including visiting estate agents and attending house viewings.
Public open spaces can be visited alone or with members of the same household for recreation. A person can also visit them or take exercise with one member of another household as long as they stay two metres apart.
Result of Dorset Police survey ‘reassuring’
DORSET Police has welcomed the results of a survey which showed the majority of respondents thought its officers were doing either an excellent or a good job during the pandemic.
The questionnaire was compiled by Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill as part of his responsibility to hold the force to account for its conduct.
A total of 2,628 people responded to the survey, which ran between 7th May and last Wednesday, with nearly 66% saying the force’s public messages about its approach lockdown had been clear. In contrast, 17% had argued the messages were not clear.
Around 80% of respondents said they mostly supported the approach Dorset Police had taken in dealing with the lockdown.
Calling the results “very reassuring”, Mr Underhill said: “This survey ran either side of the government’s decision to drop the ‘stay at home’ message in favour of ‘stay alert’, so I am particularly pleased that most people who responded think the message from Dorset Police has been clear and that so many are supportive of Dorset Police and the approach they’ve taken.”