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Anyone organising or facilitating an unlawful gathering of more than two people is liable to be fined £10,000 or summonsed to court, while those participating in them could be fined £200 for a first offence, doubling for repeat offences up to £6,400 say Merseyside Police.
Following a protest in Liverpool city centre on Saturday, 27 people were arrested and officers are continuing to study CCTV and officers’ bodycam footage in order to gather evidence and identify other suspects We will take further enforcement action where appropriate.
“We fully recognise the important right of freedom of expression, but we simply cannot ignore the fact that a deadly virus is being transmitted in our communities which more than 50,000 have now died with in the UK.
“Evidence has shown that it is a virus that can thrive in large crowds where people from different households gather and where it is very difficult to social distance, so we continue to ask that people find safe and lawful ways of making their voices heard.
“The Government has passed legislation around gatherings for a reason – to prevent further loss of life and to protect the NHS.
“This is not about restricting people’s rights for the sake of it – it is about joining a national effort to save lives, spare people the anguish of suffering the effects of coronavirus, and restore our ability to return to normality as soon as we can.
“The overwhelming majority of people in our communities understand that we as a police force have a legal and moral duty to uphold this legislation, and they shared our anger and disappointment at the scenes in Liverpool last Saturday where people gathered to protest.
“It is two weeks since a mass testing scheme was introduced in Liverpool in a bid to combat Coronavirus and it has been heartening to see 100,000 people have come forward to be tested, and do their bit to slow the spread.
“Since March, so many people and businesses have made tremendous sacrifices and been incredibly patient, doing their bit to get us all back to normality as soon as possible.
“I want to reassure all those people that comprehensive plans are in place to deal with any repeat of the scenes we saw on Saturday, and there will be additional officers in uniform and plain clothes in Liverpool city centre this weekend to identify any offenders. And we will work with our colleagues at Citywatch – the city centre’s CCTV network – to ensure we can identify others who have clearly breached the current legislation, gather evidence and ultimately take action.
“With the support of other law enforcement agencies we will be policing routes into the city, and will be supported by our Dog Section and Mounted Section as well as air support in our efforts to prevent people from endangering the health of others.
“As we have done throughout this pandemic, we will always strive to encourage people to disperse and go home peacefully. But where we face blatant breaches of legislation, people ignoring the restrictions and even obstructing police from carrying out their duty, our officers will not hesitate to take enforcement action.
“The wider public does not expect us to stand by and allow a small minority to endanger the health of the vast majority, and we will not. At this crucial time when a lockdown is in place in a national effort to stop the virus spreading, we will not tolerate the actions of those who risk prolonging the challenging times we face, and the health of our loved ones.”
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