Police chief admits force ‘not likely’ to break up ‘minor Christmas parties’

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A leading police chief has said there is “no appetite” to break up minor Christmas parties.

Ever since restrictions on the number of people meeting in doors were introduced earlier this year, minds have been turned to whether Christmas gatherings will be able to go ahead.

This week West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has said he would be “very surprised” if police broke up “minor infringements”, Birmingham Mail reported.

He said there will not be the “time or the scope” to deal with festive gatherings that breach the rules.

“As I said at the outset, the police do not make the rules or the laws – the police have to make sure that they are enforced,” he said.

“The policing is always proportionate, and there has to be discretion.

“Is there an appetite, or the resources, to be breaking up Christmas parties and minor infringements of the law?

“I very, very much doubt it, and I’d be very surprised if that was happening.”

Mr Jamieson did warn those planning large scale get togethers that they would not be beyond the law.

“I think the situation as it is now, where there have been larger gatherings where probably 30 or 40 people have gathered at a house, and clearly, flagrantly ignoring the Covid rules, that is where the police would be expected by the whole community to step in and enforce the law,” he continued.

“So for the minor infringements, there just will not be the time or scope to do it – that’s not what the police do in this country.

“But we are very clear, where people are ignoring the laws and putting themselves and the community at risk, we will step in and take action.”

The police chief said that reports about rule breakers had risen from around 150 a week a fortnight ago to 250 a week now.

He added: “We don’t want heavy-handed policing here, we want people to enjoy their Christmas, I want people to enjoy their Christmas.

“The police are all family people as well, and they want to enjoy their Christmas.

“But we’ve got to do it in a way that is compliant with the present regulations – you’ve heard several others quite rightly say it.

“And if there are major infringements then we’d all expect the police to take the appropriate action.”

A YouGov poll carried out this month revealed just 68 per cent of respondents said they will abide by the Rule of Six this Christmas.

Different police forces across the country are likely to take different approaches to enforcing gatherings during the festive season.

Greater Manchester Police, the Metropolitan Police Service and Merseyside Police said they will follow the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s line, which is that enforcement would happen “as a last resort”.

“We understand that this is a period where people want to be with their loved ones, celebrating this holiday,” a spokesperson for the NPCC said.

“We police against the regulations that are in law, and everybody has their part to play to help protect local communities and loved ones and we are confident people will adhere to the rules and help us to reduce the risk of transmission.

“The police’s approach remains to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules in the first instance and enforce as a last resort, where there are clear breaches of the rules taking place.”