TRAFFIC cameras aren’t being used by Wiltshire Police to “snoop” on covid rule flouters, the force’s chief constable has said.

Police in Devon and Cornwall are using the automatic number plate recognition cameras to enforce Covid-19 laws, according to reports.

The south west force’s chief constable Shaun Sawyer said the ANPR cameras would help police ensure people were only making essential journeys.

Asked whether Wiltshire Police was doing the same, Chief Constable Kier Pritchard told the BBC on Tuesday: “We're not using it for surveillance purposes you've just outlined, but we are monitoring it to just see how demand is changing and where we can place our resources to provide that advice and that education.”

During the first lockdown, the ANPR cameras picked up a significant drop in the number of vehicles on the roads.

Wiltshire Police revealed that it had received 286 reports of alleged coronavirus law breaches in the first week of the third lockdown. Officers had given 96 warnings and issued nine fines, the majority of which were given to people allegedly making unnecessary journeys.

Between January 6 and 9, two men from Salisbury, two men from Swindon and a man from Laverstock were fined for travelling outside their local area for non-essential travel.

On January 7, a Swindon woman was fined for staying at an address overnight multiple times. On January 9, two men in Swindon were fined for holding a gathering of more than 15 people at their home.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said: "The message from the government, the NHS and Public Health England is clear – we all need to stay at home and only leave to go out in line with the limited exceptions permitted by the law.

"Never has this message been more important, as we see the highest levels of the virus in our communities to date. Our health system is under significant strain and it only through following the rules that each of us will play our part in keeping ourselves and our community safe.

"I know that the vast majority of people understand this and are doing their bit to take personal responsibility for their actions, I would like to thank them for the sacrifices they are making.”

Boris Johnson is this week facing criticism after he was photographed cycling in East London over the weekend – seven miles from Downing Street. While the legislation allows people to leave the house for exercise, guidance published by the government says people should exercise near their home.

A No 10 spokesman said the prime minister had followed Covid-19 guidelines. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday afternoon it was “OK” to go for a long walk or cycle ride, but said people should “stay local”.

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Wiltshire Chief Constable Kier Pritchard was careful to avoid criticism of the prime minister.


Kier Pritchard speaks to BBC Radio Wiltshire

Asked what his officers would do if they found the presenter seven miles away from home on his bike, Mr Pritchard said they would follow the “four Es”: engage, explain, encourage and enforce.

“Our four Es will be that we will engage with you if you are on your bike, we will explain the importance of following the rules, we will encourage you to do exactly that and if we find that there are flagrant breaches and deliberate breaches of the rules - i.e. breaches of the legislation - then I have encouraged my officers to move towards enforcement, which is our fourth E,” the chief constable said.