Confusion over ‘COVID marshals’ who will have no power to fine or arrest
Written by on 10 September 2020
Many police officers are “absolutely baffled” about the role and powers of the government’s new “COVID-19 marshals”, according to a senior policing representative.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the marshals would make little difference if they were not able to enforce coronavirus laws.
Sky News has been told that there are no plans to give the marshals power to arrest those not complying with stricter rules around social gatherings.
The prime minister announced on Wednesday that the marshals would “boost the local enforcement capacity” as he set out new laws to restrict most types of gatherings to groups of six.
But the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has now confirmed there are no plans to give the marshals power to issue fines.
A spokeswoman said they would probably wear high-visibility clothing to support members of the public, offering guidance on the new rules around the size of social gatherings and advice on the likes of COVID-secure one-way systems.
Many local authorities already employ street or neighbourhood wardens to patrol areas prone to high levels of anti-social behaviour, with some councils now re-tasking them with extra responsibilities around COVID-19.
The prime minister wants all local authorities to adopt the same approach.
But for now at least, the new marshals will only be able to give advice and guidance.
The responsibility for providing personnel to act as marshals will lie with local authorities and there is no word on whether the government plans to provide those councils with additional funding.
Ken Marsh told the Press Association: “Any help is good help but what I’d like to understand is what actually is their role? What are we asking them to do?
“Because if they don’t actually have any powers, you know what Joe Public will do very quickly. When the stick needs to be wielded then you need to have the ability to wield it.
“Are they for parks, are they for enclosed areas? I just don’t know, no-one knows.”
He added that there will be no difference to enforcement “if you don’t have the ability to enforce”.
Policing leaders have emphasised the need for “clarity” around the new measures when introduced next week.
Those breaching the new restrictions could be fined GBP100, which would double with every subsequent offence to a maximum of GBP3,200.