Nigel Farage accuses Priti Patel of ‘threatening people’ in coronavirus plea as fines soar

Clapham Common: Police arrest anti-lockdown protesters

The Reform Party UK leader referred to strict punishments being introduced to crack down on lockdown flouters – such as £200 on-the-spot fines. Documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph reveal police officers have been told to issue the steep penalties if someone they believe is in breach of the rules refuses to go home at the first time of asking.

Ms Patel has praised the rules and said they will “save lives”.

She added: “Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.”

Guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing is titled ‘Tier 4 National Lockdown’ and has been issued to chief constables, The Telegraph said.

But Mr Farage has criticised the new strategy – while urging Ms Patel to turn her attention to illegal immigration.

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He wrote on Twitter: “This is a message for @pritipatel.

“Please get tough on illegal immigration instead of threatening people for sitting on a park bench.”

It is the second time he has raised the issue with Ms Patel since the start of the year, indicating his desire to build pressure on the topic.

Stories about lockdown fines received widespread attention last week.

West Mercia police threatened £200 penalties to people caught throwing snowballs – after “homes of elderly and vulnerable residents” were targeted late at night.

Mo Lansdale, superintendent for Shropshire, branded the behaviour “disgraceful”.

The force said: “There have been two reports of snowballs being thrown last night between 11 and 11.30pm.

“This is obviously not a justifiable reason to be out of your house, this behaviour is likely to result in a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice for breaking the lockdown rules.”

In Derbyshire, Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore were fined £200 each after they were spotted walking at a remote spot around five miles from their homes.

Police said they had breached lockdown laws on the trip to Foremark Reservoir.

The force had said the women could have taken exercise closer to their home addresses, and described their actions as “clearly not in the spirit of the national effort” to reduce travel and the possible spread of coronavirus.

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Ms Allen told the BBC: “As we drove in there was a police van, a police car and there were loads of police there.

“I genuinely thought someone had been murdered; the place is normally so quiet.

“The next thing, my car is surrounded. I got out of my car thinking ‘There’s no way they’re coming to speak to us’.

“Straight away they start questioning us.

“I said we had come in separate cars, even parked two spaces away and even brought our own drinks with us.

“He said ‘You can’t do that as it’s classed as a picnic’.”

In a statement on Friday, Derbyshire Constabulary said it had received further guidance the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which had clarified that the “Covid regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs (fixed penalty notices) for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise”.

The force said: “All fixed penalty notices during this relevant period that have been issued will be reviewed for compliance.

“All recipients will be contacted.”

Lockdown guidance instructs exercise should be limited to once per day, and says people can leave their home but not travel outside the local area.

Exercise is permitted within a group from the same property or one-on-one with someone from another household.

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