Police force says it won’t respond to calls about shoppers not wearing face masks

Customers must wear face masks in shops in England from Friday. (Getty Images)

A police force has announced it will not respond to calls about people not wearing face masks in shops.

From Friday, wearing a face mask in shops in England is mandatory under the government’s latest coronavirus rules.

Anyone who does not comply can be fined £100, halved to £50 if paid within 14 days.

However, there have been questions about how the new rule will be enforced. Businesses will be asked to encourage compliance, but enforcement is the responsibility of the police.

But after the move was announced last week, Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said it will be “impossible to enforce”.

And now Devon and Cornwall Police has said it will only respond to calls about people not wearing face coverings if they involve a suspected public order offence.

Alison Hernandez, the force’s police and crime commissioner, said: “The expectation is that they will only come if there is disorder or violence or something associated with it.

“They are not going to come to every phone call that someone is not wearing a mask,” she told Cornwall Live.

Instead, she said “street marshals” will be in place to encourage people to follow the guidelines.

Hernandez said: "What we ended up having in Devon was armed response officers for public order going along and that was not appropriate.

“You don’t want policing like that because it looks a bit policey, so we needed a better solution and we came up with this idea.”

On Tuesday, policing minister Kit Malthouse said officers can be called to a shop if “it’s a public order issue”.

He said shops should encourage people to wear face masks when they become compulsory.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Malthouse said: “There’s no intention for the police to be standing outside every branch of Asda or Greggs and making sure that people are wearing face masks.

“What we’re doing is adopting the same posture that we did throughout the lockdown which is encourage people to comply.

“We know from the previous experience that the vast majority of people will, and that, you know, shops and others should encourage people to wear face masks if at all possible, and they obviously are – it’s going to be compulsory.

“But if people resist or won’t leave the premises or there’s any kind of altercation, then obviously the police will be called and they should attend if it’s a public order issue, as they would in any other retail circumstance – if there was a scuffle or a conflict that arose.”

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