Britons should expect the introduction of further emergency laws if the current measures are ignored, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has warned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said tougher restrictions on people’s movements during the crisis would be enforced by police and that those ignoring them would be fined.
And those who flouted the restrictions could face more than fines if they persisted with their behaviour, Police Federation’s John Apter wrote in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.
“If you don’t heed this government’s advice, then it is likely further steps may need to be taken; further laws and emergency legislation could be introduced to clamp down harder on selfishness in the face of the fight against this virus,” he wrote.
The new measures give officers powers to disperse gatherings of more than two people apart from those who live together.
People can be issued an initial £30 fine and could end up in court if they do not pay.
“You would expect the police’s focus to be dispersal of groups,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Mr Apter asked people not to gather in groups and noted the relationship between the police and the public, adding: “We all have a moral duty to uphold the rule of law and look out for each other.”
Part of that duty meant following the current rules so that “new, harsher measures” were not introduced.
He added: “Either the public heeds the Prime Minister’s warning and stays at home, or the fight against COVID-19 will be longer and more will likely be affected.”
Regulations will be made by Thursday at the latest to allow police to issue fines under the 1984 Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act for England and Wales.
The emergency legislation going through the House of Commons will provide equivalent powers to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The head of Britain’s biggest police force, Dame Cressida Dick, told the PA news agency that the “vast majority” of people want to obey the new rules.
But Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, told BBC Breakfast there was “a huge amount of clarification needed” on the rules.
Police chiefs warned of phone lines being inundated with calls after the Prime Minister announced the latest measures, with questions about what movements are still permitted.