WITH localised Coronavirus restrictions remaining in place in all local authority areas covered by South Wales Police, communities are being urged to continue supporting the collective effort to help slow the spread of the virus – or face enforcement action.
While the vast majority of individuals are playing their part by adhering to Welsh Government regulations, South Wales Police is responding to an average of 40 reports of potential breaches daily.
In line with a national policing style, our officers are continuing to adopt the four Es approach in which engaging, encouraging and explaining proves to be sufficient to moderate behaviour in most instances.
However, the message to those refusing to engage or who are blatantly flouting the rules is simple; we can and will enforce.
Since local lockdown measures were first introduced in mid-September, we have issued a number of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) or reported people for consideration for prosecution, including:
12 at one address in Porth, Rhondda, where an illegal house party was taking place;
A motorist who travelled from Aberystwyth to Merthyr Tydfil to buy a van;
A Bridgend homeowner who was warned by officers for having visitors to her home. She was given an FPN after officers were called back the same evening and found people hiding in the garden;
A man who persistently travelled from Cardiff to Rhondda Cynon Taf to attend the licensed premises at which he is a regular.
A woman from Swansea who returned from a foreign holiday and returned to work the following day instead of self-isolating as required.
Some 20 antisocial behaviour referrals have also been made in lieu of FPNs, and sounds systems and other equipment seized, in a small number of instances. Section 35 dispersal orders have also been used where appropriate.
Alongside such enforcement, we are continuing to work alongside partner agencies, including local authorities and universities, to encourage and enforce compliance. Among the joint activity taken has been:
Proactive visits to licensed premises across south Wales to ensure compliance. During one joint operation in RCT and Merthyr Tydfil, 26 licensed premises were visited and only one required advise to improve in order to ensure compliance. On other occasions, where more serious breaches have occurred, a number of improvement and closure notices have been issued.
Reactive visits to reported breaches at licensed premises. While not all incidents were as reported some uncovered flagrant breaches, including a wedding party with more than 100 guests hosted by a Swansea venue, which was shut down on the night by police officers. The following day local authority partners issued a closure notice to the business owner.
Proactive and reactive visits to university halls of residence. While the vast majority of students engaged with our officers and heeded the advice given, some 190 have been issued with Acceptable Behaviour Contracts.
Chief Superintendent Andy Valentine, Gold Commander for the force’s Covid response, stressed that while encouraging voluntary compliance remains the force’s preferred stance, officers are well equipped and prepared to enforce where necessary and proportionate.
Chief Supt Valentine said: “This remains a health pandemic which affects us all, and we should all be playing our part because it is the right thing to do to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the NHS upon which we all depend.
“The vast majority of the public are doing just that, and therefore the need for enforcement remains relatively low. This would always be our preferred option; we are now responding to the same levels of crime and emergency calls for service as we faced before the pandemic started so we need to be able to reach those most in need as quickly as possible.
“Our priority has always been to keep South Wales Safe and we are grateful to those members of the public who are doing the right thing and enabling us to just that.
“For those who are continuing to flout the rules by hosting and attending house parties, ignoring travel restrictions – be it local, national or international – or failing to adhere to self-isolation requirements, we can and will enforce.
“I’d also like to remind those individuals that the penalty for breaching restrictions can be more punitive than they might think; while the fines begin at £60, that amount can raise and can result in a court summons so – much like the virus the majority of us are committed to tackling – it could prove very costly.”