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Throughout the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns, we have seen a number of people receive penalties for not adhering to the rules.

From business owners not complying with social distancing guidelines, to people mixing households and not sticking to the rule of six and even some who have travelled miles from home just to exercise.

But just what punishment could you face if youre caught breaking the rules?

Devon and Cornwall Police recently updated their FAQs page to include the latest Covid queries from members of the public.

The list includes everything from whether you can stop and chat with parents on the school run, move house and visit places of worship, to watersports during lockdown and attending a wedding or funeral.

You can stay up to date on the top news and events near you with our FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page.

In what is our third national lockdown since the pandemic began last year, the polices key advice remains pretty much the same as it always has:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • only leave your home if you have a reasonable excuse to do so
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people you dont live with
  • keep your distance if you go out (two metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly
  • do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms

How are police across the country enforcing Covid rules?

Much of the information included in Devon & Cornwall Polices Covid FAQs on the pandemic has come from police chiefs across the UK.

They are all following a system called The Four Es, which is used before fines are issued to members of the public breaking the rules.

The system goes like this:

  • Engage - Police will engage with people to ask what they are doing and if they realise they are breaking rules.
  • Explain - They will then explain the law and stress the risks rule breaking can have on public health and the NHS.
  • Encourage - They will then simply encourage them to stop breaking the rules.
  • Enforce - The last resort will be to issue penalties, though it seems these are becoming increasingly more common

Fines

Probably the penalty weve heard the most about, the police can (according to the official Gov.uk guidance) take action against you if you meet in larger groups.

This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

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.

If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

You can also receive a fine for being caught outside of your home without a reasonable excuse.

The Gov.uk guidance states: This is the 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.

Reasonable excuses includes things like:

  • Going to work (unless you can work from home)
  • Volunteering (unless you can do so from home)
  • Essential activities (shopping for food and essential supplies for yourself or a vulnerable person)
  • Education/childcare
  • Exercise (once per day, in your local area only)
  • Medical reasons
  • To avoid injury, illness or escape risk of harm
  • To visit someone who is dying or in a care home (if permitted)
  • Animal welfare reasons (attending veterinary services)
  • Communal worship and life events - to attend place of worship, funeral, burial ground or remembrance garden, or attend a wedding (but these are all subject to the limits on the numbers that can attend)
  • Further excuses (legal obligations, activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a property, or voting in an election or referendum)

Can you really face time in a cell if you break lockdown rules?

content=https://i2-prod.plymouthherald.co.uk/incoming/article2801258.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/1_Chief-Constable-Shaun-Sawyer.jpg

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer - Devon and Cornwall Police

According to Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer of Devon and Cornwall Police, you very well could find yourself in a police cell.

His warning came about after it was revealed that a group of surfers in a campervan travelled from London to North Devon to catch some waves during the third national lockdown.

Mr Sawyer warned that anyone else that plans on making similar trips this weekend could end up behind bars.

He told the BBC: I am expecting too many people to get Covid-19 and die if we carry on.

That is what I am expecting so lets not make that happen.

For the few that breach this weekend, you are going to not only get a ticket but I think increasingly you are going to end up in a police cell.

He went on to add: Throughout the pandemic our communities have been largely compliant and that has continued throughout the first week of the new national restrictions.

We want all of our communities to act within the spirit of the national guidance, and to not only follow the rules set out in law.

Many officers have been asked in the last week what constitutes local exercise and how far can people reasonably travel – what I would ask is people do the right thing to protect themselves and others from further spread of Covid-19.

The Government is asking people to stay at home and only leave or travel for a limited number of reasons, including exercise.

Local means to stay within your village, town or part of your city. While it may not be stipulated in law, be responsible and play your part in keeping your community safe.

Our encouragement, education and engagement with the public has in the vast majority of cases resulted in compliance with the regulations and a change of behaviour – that is how we hope everyone would respond.

We have dedicated Covid cars in operation throughout the force area to respond to public concerns and, where necessary, issue enforcement to maintain public safety.

No officer wants to have to issue a fixed penalty notice. My plea to the public is don’t be that person who refuses to comply and puts yourself and others at unnecessary risk.

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