Combating Covid-19: British police should 'use physical force' on coronavirus lockdown offenders

Combating Covid-19: British police should 'use physical force' on coronavirus lockdown offenders
Combating Covid-19: British police should 'use physical force' on coronavirus lockdown offenders

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - UK law enforcers should emulate their Indian counterparts' zero-tolerance measures such as beating suspects with long sticks.

British police should have the power to unleash physical force on people flouting coronavirus lockdown rules, in the same vein as their Indian counterparts who routinely beat suspects with long sticks.

That's the view of a former senior police officer, Kevin Hurley, who insists zero-tolerance measures are urgently required to deal with "a significant number of lawless and selfish criminals who do not comply" with regulations designed to curb the spread of the global pandemic.

Videos and pictures surfaced on social media over the weekend of some Brits sunbathing in parks and beaches, flagrantly flouting insistent official advice to stay at home.

Hurley, who held top-ranking positions in the Metropolitan Police and was also a Territorial Army officer, is enraged by such incidences, and  says police should be allowed to fire taser guns and plastic bullets at offenders to save lives.

"There are not enough police to persuade, fine or get tied up arresting potential virus carriers who will not be sensible or reasonable," Hurley, who has shared and endorsed videos of Indian police striking offenders with sticks on his Twitter account, told Al Khaleej Today. "As such, more immediate means are needed to get compliance. In reality, that is physical force, whether by big sticks, tasers, plastic bullets, et cetera. 

"India has a huge densely crowded population and they must reduce risk of transmission [of coronavirus] immediately. They were quite right to take such robust measures [like police using long sticks]. The latest projections [of cases and deaths] for the UK are very worrying.




"Perhaps we should lose our British sense of fair play, and even arrogance, and learn from China and now India about how to lock down to save lives."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK into lockdown on March 23 by urging residents to stay at home, save for essential work, shopping and one hour of daily exercise.

Daily government briefings have hammered home the message of: 'Stay at home, protect the NHS (National Health Service) and save lives'.

British police have also been handed the following powers to enforce social distancing measures

* The power to detain someone to be tested if they are believed to be infectiou

* The power to close a wide range of non-essential businesse

*  The power to restrict your right to move around and be part of a gathering.

UK officers can also enforce the two key social distancing rules, which ban:

* Leaving the place where you live "without reasonable excuse"

* Being in a public gathering of more than two people

If someone refuses to follow the regulations - for instance a request to go home - officers can give them an on-the-spot fine of £60 (Dh270), reduced to £30 (Dh135) if paid within 14 days. If they keep breaking the law, more fines can be given - up to a maximum of £960 (Dh4,315).




Hurley believes such action is weak and ambiguous, however.

He said: "There's no clear definition of how often you can go shopping and no restraint on it. For example, give people a day and a time slot or deliver to houses like in China. 

"Allowing exercise is a recipe for exploitation by many, as people use it as an excuse to go for a drive or meet with friends. There's no real clarity on who can go out to work and who cannot. 

"The government must firstly get much firmer in their instructions with complete clarity and no ambiguity. They must warn that police will now use firmer methods, including emergency legislation, to support this. Also that the army will support the police."

From a police perspective, Hurley added: "For police, as they are depleted in numbers, they cannot lose staff from the street by arresting people. So, firstly [they should be able to] advise, then warn, then fine, then taser, et cetera. To arrest a non-compliant person takes several officers, a van, a custody facility and staff. All risk contamination. Hence one arrest could infect a dozen staff. Arresting is not a practicable option 

"There are a significant number of lawless and selfish criminals who do not comply with the lockdown. The consequences are that thousands more will die.

"These anti-social people do not respond to persuasion and a fine is pointless as they will give a false name and address, if they even talk to the officers."

Hurley's no-nonsense comments follow the admission of Britain's Health Minister, Matt Hancock, that he "could not rule out further steps" in the country's social distancing policies, but that he was "not planning any changes imminently".

"What we are doing is being absolutely clear that the current rules must be followed," Hancock said on Sunday.

"So I say this to the small minority of people who are breaking the rules or pushing the boundaries: you're risking your own life and the lives of others and you're making it harder for us all."

- Euan Reedie is a freelance writer and editor in the UK

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