UK

Police officer in charge of enforcing lockdown laws makes shocking confession to MPs 

Even I don’t know the rules: Police officer in charge of enforcing UK’s coronavirus lockdown laws makes shocking confession to MPs

  • Owen Weatherill told MPs that the new three-tier system was too confusing
  • He failed to clarify that households must not mix indoors in Tier Two areas
  • Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes also slipped up in farcical meeting

The officer leading the national police response to the pandemic yesterday admitted he did not know the lockdown rules.

Owen Weatherill told MPs the new three-tier system was too confusing and the public needed simpler messages.

The assistant chief constable proved his point by failing to clarify that households must not mix indoors in Tier Two areas. 

Questioned on the issue, he could only reply: ‘I have not got the regulations in front of me so I cannot give you a definitive answer on that.

‘There are so many different variations – I am not conversant with every set of regulations.’

Owen Weatherill, pictured, told MPs the new three-tier system was too confusing and the public needed simpler messages

Another police chief also slipped up during the farcical session of the Commons home affairs committee.

Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes said: ‘The big one for me moving from Tier Two to Three is your household not mixing with others inside your household – not mixing or going out for a meal with people from another household.’

Yvette Cooper, the Labour chairman of the committee, pointed out this was wrong because household mixing indoors is banned in both tiers. 

Mr Rhodes told MPs he had been asked for advice on the regulations by his daughter. He said his officers were as confused as the public after having to grapple with five changes to Covid laws in seven months.

He added: ‘We have tried to tell them they don’t need to be an expert on all this sort of stuff within the first 24 hours. They can be as confused as other people.’

He said his force would issue fines only for clear offences such as organising an illegal rave to sell drugs or throwing a party with 70 guests.  

Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, pictured, also slipped up during the farcical session of the Commons home affairs committee

Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, pictured, also slipped up during the farcical session of the Commons home affairs committee

Boris Johnson was forced to make an embarrassing apology last month after getting mixed up over the details of his local lockdown measures.

In other Covid developments:

  • Rishi Sunak will today launch a rescue package to help firms hit by Covid restrictions retain their staff;
  • South Yorkshire agreed a deal to move into Tier Three from Saturday, meaning 7.3million in England will be living under the toughest Covid rules;
  • Talks to put Nottinghamshire into the ‘very high risk’ category were said to be close to completion;
  • Boris Johnson sought to bypass Andy Burnham by offering £60million of coronavirus help directly to local councils in Greater Manchester;
  • Economists warned that lockdowns were killing even more people than they ‘could possibly save’;
  • Labour’s Angela Rayner was forced to apologise after she called a Tory MP ‘scum’ during a Covid-19 debate;
  • 191 further deaths from coronavirus were reported yesterday, with daily cases at a record 26,688;
  • Hospitals stepped up the cancellation of routine surgery and non-Covid appointments amid a surge in virus admissions;
  • A Government adviser suggested a vaccine could be here by winter’s end;
  • Scotland Yard agreed to withdraw a letter urging pubs and restaurants to snoop on their customers;
  • Prince William spoke of the ‘unimaginable challenges’ faced by cancer patients as a result of coronavirus;
  • The ex-head of the civil service took a parting shot at Dominic Cummings over his lockdown trip to Durham;
  • National debt has soared to the highest level in 60 years;
  • A major report warned Covid-19 must not be used as an excuse to delay social care reform;
  • Four university students were fined £10,000 each and suspended from their courses for staging a house party.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, pictured, told the police chiefs they were wrong

Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, pictured, told the police chiefs they were wrong

At yesterday’s hearing Mr Weatherill said of the new tier system: ‘Introducing them in the way that we have done has introduced greater confusion. We are all struggling with that. Where there is confusion, there is an opportunity for people to become worn down and confused and less likely to comply.

‘I made strong representations that we should look for simplified, consistent tiers that would be the same wherever they were applied. That’s what I thought was going to happen ten days ago.

‘The reality now is already starting to drift, and as we are seeing with Tier Three, there are nuances creeping in.’

The Hertfordshire officer, who is strategic lead on Covid for the National Police Chiefs Council, was criticised for his response to the Extinction Rebellion protest that blockaded newspaper printworks last month.

He said his force was ‘committed to facilitating peaceful protest’.

Gwent Chief Constable Pam Kelly also raised concerns over the rising number of people refusing to pay fixed penalty notices who are now clogging up the court system.

Around half of the Covid fines issued in England and Wales have gone unpaid so far.

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