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Coronavirus / Police want to work with community to get Covid message across

LOCAL police say they are initially focusing on engaging with young people and community as a whole to encourage everybody to follow stricter Covid-19 rules rather than using the force of the law from the outset.

On Monday, councillor Allison (Flea) Duncan called on the police force “to get a grip” and prevent young people coming together in large crowds in Lerwick town centre during the weekend.

Responding, chief inspector Lindsay Tulloch said on Tuesday that the local force was applying a “partnership approach” to get as many people as possible to understand the important health message.

Shetland’s chief inspector Lindsay Tulloch. Photo: Shetland News

“In relation to gatherings in the town centre, I am conscious that councillor Duncan’s attendance in the town centre and his observations, and he has got some valid points of concern,” he said.

“Public health and education is looking to do some work within schools, engaging with secondary school pupils, so that they can appreciate the need to keep themselves safe and the rest of the community, and reduce any possibility of spreading any virus that may be in the community.

“As the police service we are patrolling the town centre over the weekend periods and we have been joined by the local authority anti-social behaviour officer and we hope to be joined by youth development workers who will help us in engaging with young people to get that strong message across.”

Councillor Duncan travelled into Lerwick town centre on Saturday night to see for himself how groups of young people gathered at Harrison Square between 1am and about 1.45am before they were dispersed by police officers.

He expressed grave concern about the actions as some young people saying that rules of social distancing and mask wearing had not been followed. 

He said he had counted 74 young people at Harrison Square and outside the chip shop, a figure that was disputed by police who said around 40 people had gathered.

Area commander Tulloch added: “The role of my officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance.

“We will use enforcement as a last resort where there is a clear breach of the legislation.

“We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices but we would ask people to use their judgement and avoid places which are busy to stop them from becoming over-crowded.”

New regulations that make it an offence to gather in larger groups than six people from no more than two households came into force on Monday.

Police have the power to issue fixed penalty notes of initially £60 (which will discounted to £30 if paid within 28 days). Subsequent fines double to £120, £240, £480 to a maximum of £960 with no discount.