UK Police Powers During the COVID-19 Lockdown
We have all heard the news about police activity throughout the coronavirus lockdown, with hefty fines and even some arrests reported across the UK. But what happens if you are stopped by the police during lockdown, if you have a legitimate reason to leave the house? Find advice on what to do below, plus more information on police powers during COVID-19.
Why are police needed during lockdown?
It’s important that we minimise the time we spend outside the home to reduce the spread of the virus – it’s as simple as that. The police’s priority is to keep the UK safe and protect the NHS, which is why they need to monitor how we are responding to the lockdown.
If you are out during lockdown and you don’t have a proper reason, you could be fined or arrested. The Metropolitan Police say that you should only leave the house for:
- Essential shopping for food and medicine, as little as possible
- One form of exercise a day, either by yourself or with members of your home
- To care for a vulnerable person or for a medical need
- Work travel if you are a key worker and can’t work from home
- An emergency
It is also advised that groups of more than two people should not be outside together at the same time.
What should I do if I am stopped by the police?
Any uniformed police officer or uniformed police community support officer (PCSO) has the right to stop you. This is known as a ‘stop and account’. The police officer must explain why they have stopped you and should give you a record of the account. If you are searched as well, it’s known as a ‘stop and search’.
The Met Police say that public cooperation is essential for making the local community safer. So, if you are stopped, it’s best to cooperate.
What if I am stopped while driving?
The police can stop you while driving and ask to see your documents or check over your vehicle. This is called a ‘vehicle stop’. The police would not ask you questions about coronavirus during a vehicle stop.
However, if you are asked about what you are doing, it is considered a ‘stop and account’. In this situation, the same rules apply if you are stopped by police outside your vehicle. An explanation of why you have been stopped will be provided and the police officer should offer to give you a record of their report. If the vehicle is searched, it becomes a ‘stop and search’.
Again, it’s best to cooperate with the police if you are stopped for any reason.
What happens if I’m caught outside for a non-essential reason?
The police have been asked to use their discretion when patrolling and encourage the general public to follow government advice. The Met Police has said:
“Enforcement is a last resort for us and we’d prefer to work with the public to resolve situations through clear communication and explaining why they might want to behave differently first.”
But you can still be fined or arrested if you don’t comply with the police.
Police powers and fines during COVID-19
According to government guidelines, if you are found outside your home for a non-essential reason, the police can:
- Instruct you to go home immediately
- Make sure that parents are ensuring their children are following the rules
- Issue a £60 fixed penalty notice, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within two weeks
- Issue a £120 fixed penalty notice if you are a second-time offender, which will double every time you repeat the offence
- Make an arrest if you refuse to comply, in certain circumstances
If you don’t pay the fixed penalty notice, you could be taken to court, where an unlimited fine might be posed.
What about when the restrictions are lifted?
At the moment, lockdown is still in place. When the restrictions are lifted, we can expect police to continue enforcing their powers to ensure the safety of the UK.
Advice for avoiding a fine during coronavirus
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has asked that the general public use common sense during lockdown. You should only leave your home if it’s for one of the reasons stated by the government. If you’re not sure, it’s probably a good idea to stay indoors.
If you are staying safe at home, why not play our Junkyard Quiz? We have hidden iconic movie and TV cars across a virtual junkyard – can you spot them all? Or for more motoring news and entertainment, including our coronavirus updates, check out the rest of the Leasing Lounge.
All information correct at the time of publishing.