The number of fines has already plummeted since the lockdown was eased on May 13, with just 841 handed out by forces in England compared with nearly 15,000 given before that date.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “I don’t think the public are taking much notice of what is laid down in front of them. They are doing it how they want to do it. In terms of it being enforceable, I don’t think it is.”
He said there had been widespread abuse of the rules in London over the weekend: “It’s been very, very busy. We have had a lot of gatherings of people not adhering to the rules.”
He said the new rules – which include letting people attending a garden party use the indoor lavatory – were unclear and “unpoliceable.”
“What are the rules? This is what I keep saying. I don’t think they are very clear. I think they are ambiguous. Any interpretation can be used on them. People will do what they want to do,” he said. “The youth are not bothered because they think coronavirus won’t affect them.” He added there were also contradictory messages from Government and regional leaders, citing London where ministers wanted people to use their cars to avoid public transport, but mayor Sadiq Khan was requiring police officers to pay the congestion charge but not other emergency services.
He said: “I am worried that we are doing this too quickly. I am worried that another peak is still possible. We are only just below one for the R rate [the infection rate], and have been for three weeks. I understand why because of the economy and the need to socialise but it concerns me.” A senior police source said the guidance to be issued to forces would be “light touch”. Investigations into tip-offs would be judged on merit and “depend on the circumstances”.
“Policing have told the government that unless it’s a huge gathering, it’s pretty much unenforceable now,” said the source. “Lockdown has essentially ended to all intents and purposes.”
From today, the rules allow people to meet five others at any one time, as long as it is in an outdoor space.