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Police chief insists Norfolk force using coronavirus powers ‘minimally’

PUBLISHED: 15:18 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:18 02 April 2020

Cromer police Pc Joey Mazzetti, left, and PC Cameron Askew, patrol the promenade checking that people are not congregating in groups of more than two. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Cromer police Pc Joey Mazzetti, left, and PC Cameron Askew, patrol the promenade checking that people are not congregating in groups of more than two. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A police chief said the force has only had to “minimally” use new powers brought in following the coronavirus outbreak to help enforce the government lockdown.

Norfolk Police's assistant chief constable for Norfolk Constabulary, Julie Wvendth. Photo: Norfolk ConstabularyNorfolk Police's assistant chief constable for Norfolk Constabulary, Julie Wvendth. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

To date just two people in Norfolk have been summonsed to court under new coronavirus dispersal powers brought in after prime minister Boris Johnson last month announced a lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Assistant chief constable Julie Wvendth, the Norfolk force’s silver commander for helping police to tackle the virus, said despite the introduction of new powers, officers in the county had been using enforcement as a last resort with the new legislation being used only “minimally in Norfolk” so far.

Other forces around the UK have been criticised for over-zealous use of the powers.

She said officers had been trying to explain and educate the public around the current situation which is why, to date, just two people had been summonsed to court.

Police patrol the supermarkets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Attleborough, making sure the public keep the 2m social distancing rule. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPolice patrol the supermarkets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Attleborough, making sure the public keep the 2m social distancing rule. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In each case she said the individuals were given “at least three if not more” warnings about their behaviour and what they were doing before the summonses were issued.

She insisted they had been “warned and warned and warned”.

One of them was a woman, in her 40s in Great Yarmouth who had repeatedly ignored officers’ requests to return home.

She will receive a summons to attend magistrates’ court in due course.

Meanwhile, temporary assistant chief constable Wvendth described as “disgusting” and “abhorrent” the actions of Joanne Turner, 35, who was jailed for 12 weeks after she coughed at officers after claiming she had coronavirus.

The jailing of Turner, of William Kett Close, Norwich prompted the county’s police federation chairman Andy Symonds to describe it as “shocking” that people were weaponising the virus.

She said there had been “much less” traffic on the roads following the lockdown but added there was a concern that some were “taking advantage of empty roads and driving at excessive speeds”.

“We do still have a role to play in keeping people safe and reducing the strain on the NHS.”

She added: “My overall message is thanking the community for doing what they are doing to abide by government regulations.”


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