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Police chief hopes mask rule-flouters will be ‘shamed’ into compliance

By Margaret Davis, PA Crime Correspondent

Britain’s most senior police officer has said she hopes shoppers who refuse to wear masks will be “shamed” into compliance.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told LBC that calling the police over someone failing to wear a face covering should only be “a last resort”.

The Police and Crime Commissioners for Devon and Cornwall and Thames Valley have said officers will not attend incidents where shoppers refuse to wear masks, unless they turn violent.

Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, told a Facebook Live session the force has “very limited capacity” to enforce the rules, and would only have a role in “a tiny minority” of cases.

He said: “It certainly won’t be the case that we will be encouraging people to call us if you see someone not wearing a face mask. And I can’t offer any assurance that police officers will routinely be able to attend such incidents.”

Dame Cressida said if shop keepers are concerned and “have tried everything else”, her officers will try to assist.

She told Nick Ferrari: “Calling the police should be a last resort for dealing with a mask issue. But of course the law is the law.”

Dame Cressida went on: “My hope is that the vast majority of people will comply, and that people who are not complying will be shamed into complying or shamed to leave the store by the store keepers or by other members of the public.

“If somebody is concerned about what is going on in their store, yes, of course they should call the police and we will try to assist.”

She said that supermarkets have managed to maintain social distancing and queuing themselves, only rarely needing to call the police.

“During the beginning of lockdown the larger stores that were opening, the supermarkets and things were open, some of them brought in security guards, but they have been able to maintain the social distancing and the sensible queuing.

“We patrol around and speak to shops, but they’ve only called us rarely to assist, and that is what I hope would happen on this occasion.”