People should “absolutely” consider reporting their neighbours to the police if they see them breaking new coronavirus restrictions, a Home Office minister has said.
Kit Malthouse said people could ring the non-emergency phone number if they suspected a gathering of more than six people, as new restrictions come into force in England.
From Monday, any social gathering of more than six people is against the law; fines of up to £3,200 can be levied on anyone breaking the rule, which applies both indoors and outdoors.
“We are in discussions about what reporting mechanisms there might be, but there is obviously the non-emergency number that people can ring and report issues they wish to,” Mr Malthouse said.
Asked whether people should report their neighbours, he said: “It is open to neighbours to do exactly that through the non-emergency number, and if they are concerned and they do see that kind of thing, then absolutely they should think about it.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chairman Martin Hewitt denied that enforcement of the new rule relied on people “snitching” or “grassing” on their friends and neighbours.
“I think what it relies on is all of us being responsible,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“We all have a responsibility to do what we can do, to take the steps that are required to stop the transmission and to abide by regulations so we can prevent this disease moving further through the country.”
The new regulations were published late on Sunday night, about 20 minutes before they were due to come into effect – leaving essentially no time for scrutiny.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Metropolitan Police’s response to coronavirus, said that where “people just won't listen” the force would “absolutely” take enforcement action.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the recent rise in cases “makes it clear that more needs to be done to stop the spread of this disease”.
But police have previously warned that they might not have the capacity to enforce restrictions and that public reports may be less than helpful.
Brian Booth, chair of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, told The Independent that officers “simply can’t enforce” the new restrictions as crime returns to pre-lockdown levels.
“We just don’t have the resources, the world has woken up again and it’s busy,” he added.
“We’re back to dealing with threat, risk and harm – domestics, assaults, missing people, mental health incidents, road accidents and everything that comes under normal policing.
“Resources are outstripped with that demand, never mind adding on Mrs Miggins reporting that seven people are having a barbecue next door.”
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