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Coronavirus lockdown row: Priti slaps down police chief in threat to set up road blocks

In a stinging rebuke, Ms Patel insisted the campaign to stem the spread of Covid-19 was “not about heavy-handed law enforcement.” Her comments came after Nick Adderley, Chief Constable of Northampstonshire, told a press conference he was “days away” from introducing hardline measures to crack down on people flouting social distancing laws. Mr Adderley said: “We will not, at this stage, be setting up road blocks.

“We will not, at this stage, start to marshal supermarkets and be checking the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it’s a legitimate, necessary item. 

“But again, be under no illusion, if people do not heed the warnings and the pleas I’m making today, we will start to do that.” Hours later, he switched his stance saying roadblocks and supermarket trolley searches “will not happen” and said his language may have been “clumsy.” 

Speaking on talkRADIO, the Home Secretary described such hardline measures as “not appropriate.” 

She added: “Let me be clear about that. That is not the guidance, that is not down to the measures we’ve been adopting thus far. 

“I think though, what we should just say about this weekend, in particular, is the weather is going to be good, it’s Easter, we really do need to all take responsibility here.” 

Ms Patel insisted she was “absolutely not” considering tougher lockdown laws. 

She added: “I’ll be very candid. Not everybody’s going to get this right and it has taken a couple of weeks for these measures to bed in because this has been unprecedented. The police have got these new powers that they are working with right now. We want our public places to be respected and utilised in the right way. 

“We want people to make the most of at least getting out in the right kind of way, practicing social distancing. 

“But this is not about heavy-handed law enforcement. I think I really must emphasise that. There’s a balance to this. Policing by consent means that officers, based on the guidance, exercise their judgment on the scenarios and the situations and the circumstances they are in. But the fact of the matter is, if you are having a garden party or a house party, or you’re involved in a mass gathering in a public place, don’t be surprised if the police do come up to you and ask you to stop doing that. 

“That’s exactly what we want to stop. But the majority of the British public have been doing the right thing and they have been working with the police.”

Most Britons are obeying emergency laws but a reckless minority have brazenly ignored the new rules to hold parties, picnics, sports events and other gatherings. 

As a heatwave approaches anyone tempted to breach social distancing laws was warned they face visit from the police. 

The National Police Chiefs Council said the official approach to wrongdoers is still to “engage, explain and encourage people to go home.” Enforcement will be a last resort, the NPCC said. 

However Merseyside Chief Constable Andy Cooke backed the use of road blocks. He revealed his officers may start stopping vehicles, including taxis, to establish why people are travelling. 

He tweeted: “Sadly, we are seeing an increase in cars on the road and people congregating. We are increasing our enforcement as a result.” 

Asked if that would involve stopping taxis, Mr Cooke admitted: “Quite possibly”. 

The force added: “This week we have seen indications that people are starting to ignore the advice. The roads are busier and there have been higher numbers of people out enjoying the good weather. 

“In a couple of instances we have been made aware of people having parties.”

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