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Daily UK Government Covid-19 briefing - Speech from the Chair of the NPCC, Martin Hewitt

11 Apr 2020

Daily UK Government Covid-19 briefing - Speech from the Chair of the NPCC, Martin Hewitt: MH Lectern

National Police Chiefs' Council Chair, Martin Hewitt, delivered a speech at today's daily government covid-19 briefing, held at 10 Downing Street.

SPEECH CHECKED AGAINST DELIVERY 

In many ways, this feels a very different sort of Easter weekend for all of us.  Not travelling to see family and friends, or out enjoying the glorious weather.

It feels different for the police officers and staff who are working this weekend too. 

They have new responsibilities.  They are tackling new risks.  The streets are empty and businesses are closed as we all adapt to a new way of life.

But much remains the same.

Officers are still out in their communities – fighting crime, protecting victims and tackling anti-social behaviour.  Some examples in recent days include:

  • A man arrested on the Isle of Wight in connection with a £10m importation of cocaine.
  • Seven people arrested in London - including two at Heathrow Airport as they attempted to flee the country - as part of an ongoing investigation into serious violent crime.
  • 400 domestic abuse suspects arrested in two weeks in the West Midlands.
  • And as criminals seek to take advantage of the virus, a man has been jailed for stealing personal protective equipment from a hospital in the capital.

And the less visible policing continues too.  The work to trace child abusers, track terrorists, and to protect us from cyber-attacks goes on as before.

And we’re taking preventative action as well. 

The National Crime Agency are taking down fraudulent websites and email addresses, and have launched an Online-Safety-At-Home campaign, giving parents information to keep their children safe while they’re likely to be spending more time on their devices.

Initial figures from all forces show a 21 per cent fall in overall crime across the last four weeks compared to the same period last year.

That drop – combined with the commitment of our over two hundred thousand officers and staff in the UK, and the fantastic response from our volunteer special constables, who worked more than 222,000 hours in March, means we are in a strong position.

Keep reporting crime to us - our teams are working round the clock to keep you safe and respond to emergencies.

I particularly want to reinforce the Home Secretary’s message to victims of domestic abuse or controlling behaviour.  We will come when you call for help.

To abusers, do not think this is a time you can get away with it.  We will still arrest, we will still bring people into custody, and we will still prosecute.

Fighting this virus, protecting the NHS and saving lives is a national effort. 

Police have stepped up their work alongside communities to support those hardest hit by the virus, and to reduce the strain on the NHS and other care services.

For example:

  • Two officers in London responded to a call where a 90-year-old woman had collapsed in her home. They gave first aid and recommended she go to a hospital. She was concerned she would not get to the shop in time to get milk. The officers were able to get milk back to her house, and even helped her fix a broken lightbulb.
  • Another two officers in Manchester responded to a concern for welfare call and encountered an elderly man without any electricity, heating or food. The neighbourhood policing team, working with the local housing department and businesses, were able to get money on his meter, and his fridge fully stocked with food the following day. That man now has a community contact in case he needs further support.
  • Officers in Cambridgeshire have been linking with a citizenship group to deliver tablet devices to vulnerable school children, ensuring that they too can continue to learn at home while the schools are closed.

And of course we have new responsibilities given to us as part of the Government response to the virus, which we will use carefully.

In the UK, police gain their legitimacy and authority from the consent and support of the public.

We are implementing the new regulations in that tradition of British policing.

Since the new powers were introduced officers have engaged with thousands of people. In most cases, those people have quickly understood why it’s important to follow the rules and no enforcement has been necessary.

Officers on the ground are also telling me they are seeing a great amount of support and indeed getting thanks for the roles they are playing.

However, we have had a small minority of people who, despite our best efforts, have refused to follow the instructions and officers have needed to use their enforcement powers.

Next week, we will publish full data on enforcement so far, which will include this Easter weekend.

I can tell you now, using early data from 37 forces, that 1,084 fines have been issued in England and Wales up to Thursday 8 April.

Across all of those forces, that is an average of less than 84 a day.

This shows that the overwhelming majority of people are abiding by the rules and are staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

It also shows that our approach - engage, explain and encourage, and only as a last resort, enforce - is working.

In those few cases where officers or police forces have made mistakes in interpreting new regulations, they have quickly sought to correct them and provide the necessary clarity.

We will continue to be guided by principles of fairness, proportionality and common sense.

I recognise it’s important that the public are able to judge us on whether we are keeping to those principles - so we will publish enforcement data every fortnight as we move through this crisis.

This remains a very challenging situation for everybody – public and the police – as we all adapt to the changes the country has seen.

Thank you to all those officers and staff working this weekend and throughout these testing times.  On top of the work you do every day to keep communities safe, you’re also helping doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to fight this virus and save lives.

Police chiefs will continue to work with government, staff associations and others to give you the guidance, protective equipment and testing so you can do your jobs as safely as possible.

Thank you again to the public for your continued support.  My plea to you is simple – even in times of frustration and good weather

Work with us   -   Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives