Labour demands answers about policing the lockdown following Cummings excuses

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Shadow Home Secretary, has today written to the Home Secretary to raise serious questions about the implications for policing, following the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday.

The letter points to a number of policing areas that have been thrown in to confusion as a result of the attempt to justify Dominic Cummings’ 260 mile trip with a household member displaying Coronavirus symptoms.

The Shadow Home Secretary asks for clarification on a number of questions including:

Has guidance to police forces now been updated regarding travel restrictions for people with coronavirus symptoms and those in a household with someone experiencing symptoms?
If people are travelling in a car in the expectation that they may require child care at some point, can you confirm that police will not be empowered to issue Fixed Penalty Notices to them?

·       Can you make public details of any communications between the Durham Constabulary and government officials and/or ministers since Thursday 21 May

Thomas-Symonds highlights that “police officers have put themselves at extraordinary risk to keep people safe during this crisis, whilst also working with great skill to interpret and explain public health legislation.” And raises concerns that this makes their job even more difficult.

[Full text of letter]

Dear Priti,

The recent revelations regarding the actions of the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser, Mr Dominic Cummings, are deeply worrying.

As you will be aware, Mr Cummings’ decision to travel over 260 miles with a family member experiencing clear symptoms of Coronavirus has caused deep concerns. This is both as a result of the public health risks this posed, and the stark difference from the way many families have addressed such challenges through this crisis.

As a result, I would be grateful if you could address the following questions:

– Has guidance to police forces now been updated regarding travel restrictions for people with coronavirus symptoms and those in a household with someone experiencing symptoms?

– If people who are travelling in a car in the expectation that they may require child care at some point, can you confirm that police will not be empowered to issue Fixed Penalty Notices to them?

– Can you further confirm which modes of transport people are allowed to use when they are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus or are in a household with someone else experiencing symptoms?

– If using cars, are people in either of these situations allowed to break their journey for comfort breaks at public spaces, such as a service station or rest point?

– Can you provide assurance that Mr Cummings had put in place arrangements with police and other emergency services to ensure that were assistance needed en route that response staff would attend with appropriate PPE?

– Can you outline in detail what the Prime Minister meant when he said that people are allowed to follow their “instincts” when seeking to isolate and how this supersedes the very clear public health guidance, which says:

“Essential travel does not include visits to second homes…whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People must remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”

– How many Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued by police forces where those apprehended have used the need to access childcare as a mitigation?

– Can you make public details of any communications between the Durham Constabulary and government officials and/or ministers since Thursday 21 May?

As you know, police officers have put themselves at extraordinary risk to keep people safe during this crisis, whilst also working with great skill to interpret and explain public health legislation. The confusion and misinformation caused by the government’s response to these revelations appears to make this work even more difficult.

I find this deeply concerning and will do all I can to try and support the police’s efforts by requesting greater clarity on issue.

I look forward to your urgent response.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP

Shadow Home Secretary

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