Northern Ireland

Police to have powers to enforce post-Christmas curfew

Police on patrol in Belfast city centre on Sunday. Picture by Mal McCann
Police on patrol in Belfast city centre on Sunday. Picture by Mal McCann

POLICE are being given powers to enforce the one-week post-Christmas curfew, health minister Robin Swann has said.

The new restrictions mean that between 8pm and 6am from December 26 to January 2, people must remain in their homes unless they have a reasonable excuse.

Shops will be shut, no takeaway food can be ordered, no-one can gather indoors or outdoors and people can only exercise outside with members of their own household.

The curfew is the first in Northern Ireland since the Falls curfew of 1970 - later found to be illegal.

Until now it has only had the status of guidance to the public and had not been made a legally enforceable requirement.

However, health minister Robin Swann asked that it have legal weight.

In a letter to the first and deputy first ministers over the weekend, he wrote: "As previously stated I would very much prefer if we could agree to put our stay at home requirements into the coronavirus regulations and therefore make it a legally-enforceable condition in an effort to curb our infection rates."

Mr Swann told the BBC yesterday: "The regulations published tonight will see that go into regulation, the executive agreed to that yesterday and it is being worked through by the departmental solicitors' office to ensure it is legally enforceable.

"From 8pm to 6am that week, the police will have additional powers to enforce things."

The PSNI had said it was waiting to see the regulations.

"Whilst there's much speculation, the regulations in respect of night-time restrictions are still being drafted by the Northern Ireland Executive and once confirmed these will form the basis for police operational activity," a spokesman said.

The PSNI also said it has no plans to set up check-points, including along the border, to make sure people are sticking to the Executive's travel guidance.

"At this point the police service are not anticipating routine road-stops nor border checkpoints in response to the health protection regulations.

"We will however be continuing Operation Seasons Greetings which means communities across Northern Ireland can expect to see more police officers in more places, more of the time, as we continue to do our best to keep people safe across cities, towns, villages and on our roads."

Latest figures show that police have issued more than 1,000 fines for breaches of Covid regulations.

Around 500 fines were issued in Belfast.