COVID-19: New police powers come into effect to protect the public

New police enforcement powers have been granted by the UK and Welsh Government yesterday (Thursday 26 March), to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives.

From now on if members of the public do not comply with government advice to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel, North Wales Police officers may:

  • Directed to return home or removed from where they are and returned home
  • Issue a fixed penalty notice of £30, which if not paid within 14 days will double to £60
  • If they are issued with a second or subsequent notice the charge will be £120

Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice under the regulations could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where deemed proportionate and necessary.

However, in the first instance the police will always apply their common sense and discretion and seek to Engage, Explain and Encourage. Where individuals refuse to comply, or repeatedly breach the legislation, our officers are ready to enforce the regulations as the public would expect us to do.

Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said: “This is a public health emergency and compliance with these measures is considered necessary to achieve the objective of effective social distancing. 

“We have all heard the scientific advice which clearly states this will slow the spread of the virus and save people’s lives.

“These new powers will support my officers in dealing with those that have not yet fully understood the gravity of the situation. The Government has been clear that it expects people to do the right thing in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

“Disappointingly we saw a large influx of visitors to North Wales last weekend, however with the caravan and camping sites now closed we hope people will continue to adhere to the messages and stay away. We urge anyone who may be considering visiting North Wales to think again.

“Maintaining the best service to the public, protecting our officers and staff, and supporting the nationwide response are our top priorities.

“We urge self-compliance within all of North Wales’ communities. Officers and staff will encourage everyone to do so, remind those who we see in public who we believe may not be following them to do so, and only resort to enforcement action as a last resort.

“We’re in this together and each and every one of us has a role to play by following government advice. The vast majority are following the advice, and we thank them for listening.

“It’s at times like this we see the very best of community spirit and partnership working and I’d like to thank all those, including our officers and staff going above and beyond the call of duty, who are working as one to respond to this situation.”

Individuals will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities and supplies, which should be as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day - for example, a run, walk or cycle - alone or with members of their household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, and
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where they cannot reasonably practicably work from home.

Members of the public should continue to call 999 in an emergency where a crime is in progress or there is a threat to life.

If your call is not urgent, we would urge people to make use of our online reporting service or webchat facility wherever possible, in order to release the pressure on our emergency lines and resources.

If you are seeking advice around COVID-19 and what it means for you, please visit the UK Government or Welsh Government website in the first instance. This will enable our call takers and officers to focus purely on policing matters and ensure resources are being utilised effectively.

For the latest health advice please visit Public Health Wales