After the ‘rule of six’ law came in on Monday, police have still not had any guidance in how to enforce it, a top officer has said.
John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales told Good Morning Britain that officers were still unsure how to uphold the new law, which bans any social gatherings of over six people.
In response to a question about having “more guidance”, Apter responded: “Maybe we should have ‘guidance’, because we haven’t had any yet.”
Apter said he understood the government faced a “very fast-moving” and complicated situation but added: “My colleagues who are on the front line trying to interpret this law, trying to educate and work with the public, are now being accused of asking (people) to snitch on their neighbours.”
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He also said the community needed to manage its expectations of police in enforcing the new rule.
He said: “We do not have loads of extra police officers. We’re already trying to manage increasing demand. We’re not going to be able to attend every call.”
Last week, Boris Johnson announced groups of more than six people would be banned from Monday, following a rise in coronavirus cases.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Monday that police will initially not fine anyone for breaking the new law.
He said: “What you would expect to happen is for the police to be out today encouraging people to follow the new rules but in the coming days, if we see people continuing to flout the new rules, it is right that people could face a fine.
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“The regulations are in place to help to stop the spread of the virus, to protect the NHS and to ultimately save lives.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock has previously said the new law would simplify rules, praising it as easy enough to sum up in a sentence.
Breaches of the law could result in a £100 fine to begin with, doubling to a maximum amount of £3,200 for repeat offences.
The government has also banned “mingling” under the new law, which states that people that cannot “mingle” with others outside their designated social gathering.
The law offers no definition of what “mingling” means in legal terms, prompting leading human rights lawyer Adam Wagner to claim it will be “nigh on impossible to enforce”.