Polce officers will carry out spot checks on drivers today to see if they are travelling to see their lovers on Valentine’s Day, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A Metropolitan police source said last night: ‘I’m going to be spending my Valentine’s Day ruining people’s Valentine’s Days’ and joked that officers could end up asking male drivers: ‘Is that your wife, sir?’
The force has not routinely conducted regular spot checks on drivers as part of its Covid rule enforcement before now.
Motorists coming into London will be stopped, quizzed about their intentions and reminded that only ‘essential journeys’ are permitted
Sir Ian Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader, said the operation – to focus on West London – was ‘heavy-handed’ adding: ‘If people are just having a quiet Valentine’s Day, why should we be stopping them? We’re not a police state.’
The police source said it is meant primarily as a ‘deterrent’, adding: ‘Most police officers are loath to hand out fines. If people apologise then they will mostly get off with a warning.’
It is currently against the law for people to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of one household or support bubble. Announcing the lockdown last month, the Prime Minister said: ‘You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a Covid test, or to escape domestic abuse.’
Failing to stay at home without a valid reason can result in a £200 fine, which falls to £100 if paid within 14 days.
A Home Office source said ‘visibility is important’ and praised the police for the way it has approached enforcement.
The source said the focus is on: ‘Engage, encourage and explain, and enforce as last resort.’
A Home Office source said ‘visibility is important’ and praised the police for the way it has approached enforcement
The level of enforcement of lockdown rules varies from force to force.
Some have refused to hand out many fines, while Derbyshire Police have been accused of being ‘over-zealous’ in issuing £200 fines to people for visiting beauty spots.
And police in Cornwall have stopped drivers who took to the roads last month to ‘watch the sunset’. It is understood Ministers are keen on introducing a more consistent strategy across the country, instead of each force interpreting rules in its own way.
Last night the Met’s press office said it was not aware of the Valentine’s Day operation.