Police bosses urge careful thinking before heading out this weekend

Police are expecting a rise in visitors to places like the Roaches

We are being urged to think carefully about where we are going and how to keep distance from others - during the first weekend since the lockdown regulations were updated.

Police in Staffordshire and Cheshire are asking residents to continue to act responsibly to keep everyone safe.

The Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police, Gareth Morgan, said: “The efforts of the public over the past seven weeks have meant police officers have rarely had to enforce the Government regulations here in Staffordshire – thank you. I am confident the vast majority will continue to do their bit and follow the revised guidance which has been published today.

“The threat of infection has not gone away. These changes are incremental and the overriding public health message remains that people should stay home as much as possible to help keep the infection rate down.

“However, the reasons why people can go out – to work, shop and for leisure/exercise – have now been expanded.

“As many of us are now able to spend more time outdoors, each of us need to take personal responsibility for doing that within the restrictions set out by the Government. Our role as police officers is primarily to engage and explain. The expansion of the reasons to be away from home rightly focuses on what people can do rather than previously a longer list of what they can’t do. In reality they describe a return to what most of us would describe as a slow return to work and family life which thankfully we don’t normally police.

“It is vitally important that we remember that, as police officers, we enforce the law not guidance. For example, social distancing is guidance and it is not enforceable in these regulations. Personal responsibility is now key - for those who are able to leave their homes as a result of the changes, think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others. Keep in mind the purpose of the regulations and the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives.

“Overall, the public’s response during these unprecedented times, and how they have coped with the restrictions placed on them as part of the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives, has been extraordinary. The vast majority have followed the Government’s guidance, making personal sacrifices to do so. There are clearly still restrictions in place which will continue to place limits on people and I anticipate that occasionally we will need to use our enforcement powers for the small minority who break the law. This is necessary if we are to support the majority who are adhering to the law and to ensure we safeguard the country’s recovery. It’s also important to remember that throughout this crisis we have continued to fulfil our core role of day-to-day policing alongside the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“I expect some people are going to be uncertain and confused and will need to be helped to work their way through the coming days and many will be looking for clarity. I would encourage people to refer to the FAQs which the Government has published here. It provides some simple guidance to help address the questions which many people are likely to have."

Chief Constable of Cheshire Police, Darren Martland, said:  “The community spirit shown by residents across Cheshire during the lockdown has been remarkable and I want to thank every single person who has played their part in helping to keep the nation safe.

“It has been really encouraging to see that the vast majority of residents have been sticking to the guidelines and we really need to ensure that this continues.

“Many are now able to spend more time outdoors and it is really important that people take personal responsibility, know what the remaining regulations are and think very carefully about where they are going and how they will be able to keep their distance from others in order to keep everyone safe.

“In England, the police role has changed as public health regulations have changed.  We police by consent and our overall aim is to continue to encourage and support our local communities to comply fully with the remaining restrictions that are in place.

“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, talking from a safe distance, explain the remaining measures and what they mean and encourage people to do the right thing and abide by them of their own accord.

“We will use common sense and discretion to determine what is reasonable.  Officers do not want to have to use enforcement powers but it is right that they are still able to take action against those who disregard the rules and, in doing so, are potentially putting people at risk.

“It is important to remember that officers across Cheshire are working hard to keep everyone safe in what remain challenging circumstances and we all need to work together to get through this.

“I want to reassure all residents that we are here to serve and protect and maintain the best service to the public and we will continue to work as hard as we can, alongside our partners, to keep you safe, protect our officers and staff, and support the nationwide response.”

David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “It is still very much necessary to keep to many of the lockdown measures in place in order to stop the spread of the virus, protect our NHS and save lives.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with how, so far, the vast majority of Cheshire residents have followed the guidance and I would like to thank them for their care.

“This has enabled minimal levels of enforcement action with Cheshire Constabulary adopting the approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging the public to abide by the measures before considering the use of the new enforcement powers.

“In my role as Police and Crime Commissioner, I will continue to monitor the policing of the new measures via weekly meetings with the Chief Constable. If local residents have any questions, I’d be grateful to receive these for my weekly reassurance meetings with the Chief Constable where questions will be considered and individual answers provided to residents.”

Residents are reminded that there are different regulations in place in Scotland and Wales to those in England and people living in Cheshire, which borders North Wales, need to familiarise themselves with what is allowed in each part of the country.

With an increase in traffic expected on the county’s roads as some restrictions are lifted, drivers are also being reminded of the need to stay safe on the road – ensure your vehicle is roadworthy, drive carefully and be mindful of the rules and regulations in place.

More from Local