Daily Mail

Police ‘got just 16 minutes to enforce Covid rules change’

POLICE once had only 16 minutes’ notice of new lockdown restrictio­ns, the Covid Inquiry heard yesterday.

- By Ryan Hooper

Priti Patel said there was ‘a high degree of confusion’ about the complex legislativ­e tapestry during the pandemic.

But the former home secretary said the ‘suboptimal’ legislatio­n was solely the domain of then health secretary Matt Hancock.

Dame Priti’s views were echoed by Martin Hewitt, the former chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, who told the inquiry that even law-abiding citizens struggled to conform to the rules.

He cited a time when one restrictio­n was signed off by Mr Hancock only 16 minutes before constabula­ries had to enforce it.

Mr Hewitt also accused ministers of repeatedly confusing rules with guidance, forcing him to carry

out media interviews so the public would know what was illegal and what was not.

He said police and the public found it difficult when regulation­s lacked ‘clarity or specificit­y’, or where the guidance ‘was inconsiste­nt with what the regulation says’.

Mr Hewitt said Mr Hancock had signed off regulation­s due to come into force the next day at 11.45pm. He added: ‘I had a conversati­on and was very clear with the home secretary at the time [Dame Priti] that we would not be enforcing that regulation on that day and it was going to take us probably ... 24, 36 hours to actually get to a place where I was confident police officers out there knew what they needed to do.’

One such law, giving police officers the power to direct members of the public to be tested for Covid19, was singled out for criticism by inquiry chairman Baroness Hallett.

She said: ‘ That’s an extraordin­ary power to enact... there are so many reasons why that’s a bad piece of legislatio­n.’

Mr Hewitt agreed but said that the powers were never used.

The inquiry has now cost the taxpayer more than £56million – a rise of nearly £ 18million in the three months since evidential hearings began.

The quarterly financial reports show that almost £20million has been spent on lawyers so far, while Baroness Hallett has been paid £250,000.

The inquiry is not expected to complete its public hearings until 2026.

 ?? ?? Criticism: Priti Patel
Criticism: Priti Patel

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