Police quiz people on park benches and hand out warning leaflets

Be careful where you sit! Police quiz people sitting on park benches and hand out warning leaflets to drivers asking ‘why are you here?’ as Priti Patel backs Covid crackdown and says stay at home message is ‘very clear’

  • Scotland Yard revealed that officers will be told to stop civilians in the street and ask why they are not at home
  • Priti Patel backs police to demand answers about why public are out with a ‘stay at home’ order in place
  • This includes approaching people in parks, drivers out and about and going to homes if they are very noisy 
  • Those who cannot give excuse will be fined up to £6,400 and those without masks where needed will be fined
  • The ratcheting up of enforcement comes as police dish out new instructions to officers in England and Wales
  • Police arrested 28 demonstrators for flouting restrictions and fined four men £800 for driving to McDonald’s

Priti Patel today backed police to confront people on park benches, stop cars to check if passengers are all from the same household and knock on doors to hunt for parties as officers pledged to fine everyone breaching Boris Johnson’s lockdown laws.

The Home Secretary spoke out after Scotland Yard revealed officers will quiz citizens about why they are not shut away in their homes after four friends were fined £800 for travelling in the same car to McDonald’s in Northamptonshire.

And yesterday police in Maidenhead in Berkshire stopped drivers outside Tesco and handed them leaflets asking: ‘Why are you here?’ in a clampdown on non-essential travel – despite shopping for food being allowed. 

Ms Patel says that police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and ‘explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons’, adding that it is ‘right’ that the police confront people sitting on park benches. In the past two weeks more than 800 fines were issued for ‘egregious’ breaches of the coronavirus rules, she said.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The police have done that [approached people on benches], let’s be very clear about this. Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, during the last lockdown, the police have been asking individuals why are they out and about, and should they be out and about, when the message right now is stay at home’. 

Ms Patel refused to speculate on whether there would be any easing of restrictions before March 31 as Boris Johnson quietly extended his third national lockdown and ducked Tory demands to guarantee ‘malicious’ rules are eased after his first review on February 15. 

‘I would love to say, of course we would love to see that and say that but that’s not for us to speculate,’ Ms Patel told LBC.

‘We all just need to absolutely whack this virus down, we’ve got to reduce the R factor… it’s a wretched, wretched disease, it really is. Right now the focus of the Government and the NHS is to get the jab into people’s arms.’

The Met say anyone caught not wearing masks in public buildings or being outside without a suitable reason will be given a fixed penalty notice without warning.  Anyone who cannot give a lawful excuse will be fined up to £6,400 and those caught without face coverings in necessary areas will also be slapped with an on the spot penalty notice of £200 minimum.  

Lockdown rules allow two people from separate households to meet in public and go for a walk. Any larger gatherings are banned and illegal. 

As police pledged a zero-tolerance approach, it also emerged today:

  • Police enforcing the new Covid lockdown laws will fine people the first time they are caught not wearing face coverings or being outside without a suitable reason;
  • Approval of Covid vaccine batches is to be sped up drastically in a huge boost to the jab campaign. Amid growing concern over the slow pace of the rollout, sources said that testing would be cut from up to 20 days to just four;
  • But 24/7 vaccinations are set to be snubbed with NHS currently not planning to hand out jabs on Sundays despite desperate need;
  • London’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid-19 in less than two weeks even in a ‘best’ case scenario, an official briefing reportedly warns; 
  • Schools now plan to hold their own mock exams after Gavin Williamson failed to explain how staff will be able to accurately grade GCSE and A-level students as teachers near-unanimously called for the Education Secretary to resign, it was revealed today. 

Priti Patel said that police should confront people on benches in the park if they are suspected to be breaking the rules as two women met in York on the first full day of lockdown yesterday

Hyde Park in London was busy yesterday and officers were seen approaching them to check their business

Ms Patel (pictured today) says that police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and ‘explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons’

Listeners were perplexed that the Home Secretary believed that police approaching people on park benches was the right thing to do

Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground

Four people who were caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws

Thames Valley Police has apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets in Maidenhead asking drivers ‘why are you here today?’

Protesters yelled as they were surrounded and arrested after officers asked them to leave area around Parliament Square.  One was pinned down and cuffed on the plinth under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

Police were forced to chase the protesters around Parliament Square after many refused to disperse this afternoon

Police officers arrest a 92-year-old man outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, yesterday after the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail. The Met is yet to confirm the reason for the arrests as it pledged to get tough on covidiots, including those gathering in large groups

Priti Patel refuses to rule out blanket ban on non-essential travel into and out of the UK as ministers are warned people will find it IMPOSSIBLE to get a pre-arrival Covid test in some countries 

Priti Patel today refused to rule out a blanket ban on non-essential travel into and out of the UK as ministers scramble to tighten up border controls. 

Asked about the idea, the Home Secretary said the government was ‘reviewing measures at the border’ and further announcements would be made in the coming days.

Boris Johnson confirmed earlier this week that a requirement for arrivals to have tested negative will be introduced, amid alarm at the spread of new variants around the world.

But the system – likely to mean people must test negative within 72 hours of travelling – is not expected to be unveiled until the end of the week or even later, with the implementation date unclear. Experts have warned there are serious practical problems, with the chances of getting access to a reliable test at short notice in countries such as Barbados ‘zero’.

Ms Patel suggested that the measures could go even further as she was pressed during a round of interviews this morning.

‘Further action is going to take place. The government is reviewing measures at the border… You will hear very shortly some of the changes that the government will be proposing.’

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if there would be a ban on non-essential travel, Ms Patel said Britons were already being advised to stay at home and only travel abroad within ‘strict rules’.

Pushed again on whether people will no longer be able to ‘come and go’ through airports, she said: ‘Our measures have always been under review when it comes to health measures at the border and also restricted measures on international travel.’   


Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt hammered home the ramped up way police will be enforcing the lockdown rules.

He told the Telegraph: ‘Forces will continue to bear down on that very small minority who flagrantly and selfishly breach the regulations, such as those that organise unlicensed music events or parties.

‘This behaviour puts others at significant risk, and it’s right we patrol in potential hotspots and that officers are inquisitive when they see something out of the ordinary.

‘This will offer both reassurance to the public and act as a deterrent to those who think the measures don’t apply to them.’

His stern words followed a day when the Met detained 21 protesters at an anti-lockdown rally in Parliament Square, while a further seven were taken from a march outside Julian Assange’s bail hearing and face fines up to £6,400.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home?

You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes: 

  • Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
  • Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
  • Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
  • Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend. 
  • Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
  • Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area 
  • Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
  • Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). 
  • You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
  • Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
  • Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.

There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.

In Northampton, a group of friends were pulled over at 5am and slapped with a £800 penalty notice for being in the same car despite being from different households – breaching rules that came into force at midnight.

Meanwhile Thames Valley Police apologised after an officer who was ‘a bit keen’ handed out leaflets asking drivers to explain why they were out and about as part of a crackdown on travel in Maidenhead.

Motorists caught making repeated unnecessary journeys during the latest lockdown will have their number plates recorded by police ANPR cameras and then face being fined by officers who later turn up at their homes.

Officers will also visit the homes of Londoners who have recently returned from South Africa, where experts have identified a particularly virulent Covid strain which may be resistant to all current vaccines.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said policing was being ‘ramped up considerably’ as the government was now ‘frightened’ of the numbers of deaths and infection rates in London.

He said ten per cent of the Met force – more than 3,000 officers – were now off work due to the virus and that number was rising fast.

Explaining the new measures Ken Marsh told MailOnline: ‘If you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, you now have to print off a clarification that proves you have an exemption.

‘This is a problem we’ve had all along, that before anyone could say they had a medical reason for not wearing a mask and we’d have to just accept it and walk off. That isn’t the case now.

‘Officers will pursue the questioning in the same manner but the person will then be given a certain amount of time – how long exactly hasn’t yet been finalised – with which to produce notice of exemption from a doctor.

‘While people are not required to carry this exemption with them at all times, it’s easier and speeds up the process if they do.

‘What I’ve actually called for is a badge that someone actually has to apply for first and then can wear to show that they have a proper medical exemption.

‘We’re not trying to be Big Brother about it but you can get on the tube and there’d be roughly a dozen people without face coverings who I would question have an exemption.’

Mr Marsh continued: ‘We are ramping up the work around vehicle movement. ANPR monitoring will be done across the board in relation to persistent vehicle users and if found they are flouting the law they will be fined. Officers will visit their homes to ask the nature of their journeys and if needs be those motorists will be fined.

‘We are also visiting the homes of anyone arriving from South Africa, back from holiday.

‘Police patrols are being stepped up all over London and from tomorrow a taskforce, made up of all the relevant authorities, including the local councils and police, will be going out in force over the next two weeks to ensure that non-essential businesses remain closed.’

Mr Marsh said any future anti-vaccine demonstrations – like those led by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – will be dealt with far more robustly.

That was evident yesterday when four people caught travelling in the same car on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast were fined £800 for breaching coronavirus laws.

Police pulled over the vehicle at around 5am in Bedford Road, Northampton. The two men and two women claimed they were on their way to get a McDonald’s breakfast – even though the fast food restaurant did not open for another two hours.

Enquiries confirmed the four were not from the same household, so the journey breached lockdown rules which officially came into force at midnight.

As a result, their early-morning takeaway turned out way more expensive than planned when officers slapped them each with £200 fines.

Meanwhile anti-lockdown protesters were seen being chased through Westminster this afternoon before being pinned to the floor, handcuffed and warned they would be fined if they did not return home.

Mr Marsh said: ‘We are going to get a lot tougher on these sort of anti-vaccine protests from now on because not only is it disinformation it’s unlawful.

‘There will be a lot more policing around these groups now and far more robust action to be taken and arrests to be made.’

Despite rising numbers of police officers having to take time off with Covid-related issues, 200 Met cops are being drafted in to drive London Ambulances because of a shortage in the ambulance service.

Mr Marsh added: ‘Our numbers have now gone above 3,000 off sick – I mentioned that it was 1,300 only ten days ago so it shows how fast numbers are rising.

‘In fact it’s scary that numbers are going up at that speed. There are 32,112 officers in the Met – so more than ten per cent are either ill with Covid or having to self-isolate because of it.

‘Yet we are also now going to be providing 200 drivers to the London Ambulance Service.

‘We’ve got to perform these roles on top of daily policing and although we would never turn a blind eye to crime but we will have limited resources. This is all above and beyond the call of duty and it’s putting a huge strain on my colleagues.’

Council Covid wardens were also out in force across the country as the authorities vowed to fine mask-flouters or anyone out of the house without ‘good reason’ at least £200 on the spot. West Midlands Police has asked for permission to force entry into homes to break up parties.

Scotland Yard’s constables were filmed chasing protesters through Parliament Square before putting them in handcuffs as officers were heard telling people gathering illegally: ‘I’m going to issue you a fine if you don’t return home’. 21 people were arrested and are being taken into custody. They have not yet been fined.

People were pinned to the ground and cuffed – including on the plinths of the famous statues there including Mahatma Gandhi’s – before being put into vans after refusing to leave Westminster. 

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme


A person in a mobility scooter passes a ‘Thank you NHS Staff’ sign on the sea front on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset

A man walks across a deserted Sherlock Street in Birmingham city centre during new national lockdown measures

Empty streets in Leeds, West Yorkshiure, on the second day of the national lockdown

The Tube was also largely deserted in central London this morning as millions were ordered to stay at home

Around two miles away Met officers arrested seven supporters of Julian Assange as he was denied bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning, including 92-year-old Eric Levy and several other pensioners. Protesters shouted ‘fascists’ at police taking them away.

Police state UK: Crime commissioner calls for law change to allow officers to force entry into homes of suspected rule-breakers 

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ 

A police force wants powers to force entry into the homes of suspected Covid rule breakers. 

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily.’

Mr Jamieson said: ‘For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.

‘I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.’

Before Christmas, Mr Jamieson said officers would break up family celebrations if they flouted lockdown rules over the festive period. The police chief also warned about Hanukkah and Diwali celebrations.

But his cash-strapped force came under fire earlier this week after advertising for a new £74,000-a-year ‘fairness and belonging’ director to ‘oversee improved inclusive culture throughout the workplace’.

A Met spokesman said: ‘Seven people were detained for breaching Coronavirus regulations. They were later reported for consideration of a fixed penalty notice and ordered to leave the area.’

The hard-line from the Met came as England’s new lockdown laws were published and it was revealed they will be enforced until Easter on March 31 – not mid-February as Boris Johnson promised if the vaccine roll-out is successful.

Scotland Yard says anyone attending unlicensed music events or large illegal parties will now also be fined – not just the organisers of such events – and anyone ‘wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with’.

Meanwhile West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson urged the government to give officers power of entry to homes, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’ if there is an illegal party.

Fixed penalty notices of £200 will be issued for any first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.

Elsewhere, senior police have apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets asking drivers ‘why are you here?’ as part of a crackdown on travel during lockdown.

Residents in upmarket Maidenhead, Berks., were outraged to find their trips for shopping and exercise challenged by uniformed police, who distributed the leaflets.

The leaflet read: ‘Government restrictions require us to avoid ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL.

‘You should exercise no more than once daily. This should be by walking, running or cycling etc. from your home address. You should not be driving to a location away from your home to carry this out.

‘Please refrain from unnecessary travel until the restrictions have been lifted.’

However, bosses at Thames Valley Police have said the leaflets should not have been handed out by officers, who stopped all traffic on a bridge in the area.

Rosalind Bieber, who shared a picture of one of the leaflets online, said: ‘I got caught up in a big queue this morning at 9.30am, from the roundabout by the police station to the Berkeley’s site.

‘There were two police officers stopping every single car and asking where we were going. I was handed this leaflet as shown below and told I cannot shop at the Tesco in Taplow as I live in Maidenhead. They will be issuing fines from tomorrow, so be aware folks.’

Ms Bieber added: ‘If Tesco is where I do my regular food shop why should I then be told to shop at another supermarket.

‘I’m travelling two miles from an SL6 postcode to another SL6 postcode. I dislike Sainsbury’s so I won’t be going there. Not my fault that Tesco is two miles away, the one in Maidenhead closed down three months ago! Instead the police should be cracking down on those travelling on non essential journeys!’

More than 100 mourners attending the funeral of a friend who died from Covid-19 were sent home from a cemetery by police for breaking the coronavirus rules on gatherings.

The mourners arrived at the crematorium and cemetery in Slough, Berks., to pay their last respects to someone being buried during a funeral after dying from the pandemic virus.

Officers had to send the grieving people away, pointing out that no more than 30 people were allowed to gather for funerals under the regulations. The Slough crematorium was the setting for the funeral for Princess Margaret many years ago.

A spokesman for Slough Borough Council said: ‘We are warning residents that police will be called to the cemetery and crematorium if lockdown regulations are breached, following an incident earlier.

‘Police were called to the Stoke Road site, owned and operated by the council, after more than 100 people turned up for a burial, in clear breach of the lockdown regulations which require there to be only 30 people in attendance and socially distanced.

‘It is the first time police have been called to the cemetery because of a breach of the Covid regulations since the crisis began.’

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