A video that was shared on social media which appeared to show a woman being arrested by Dorset Police officers for breaching Covid rules was “stage-managed”, according to top police officers.
The video was filmed by a bystander as a woman sat on a bench. But only the video footage of the arrest was published online, not the events that led up to the woman’s contact with the police.
Dorset Police have said that they believe that the video was planned and was recorded by so-called ‘anti-lockdown’ protesters during a demonstration in Bournemouth on Saturday.
As the UK death toll from Covid reached over 80,000 people, and with the virus spreading ‘like wildfire’ through communities, the government introduced a third lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
Hospitals in the south and south-east of the country have reported that they are nearing capacity with the amount of Covid patients they can treat.
Due to the pressure being placed on the emergency ambulance service, some patients have to wait ten hours for an ambulance, with ambulance handover times also taking between 4-9 hours in many A&Es in the south of the country.
Dorset Police said two of those held were later de-arrested when they confirmed their details in police custody and a third was released when officers verified his details.
All three were issued £200 fines. Officers also issued at least seven other fixed penalty notices and ten dispersal notices.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Callaghan said:
“We believe this video was planned, stage-managed and recorded by members of the protest group who turned up in multiple areas, several of whom refused to engage or provide their details.
“If people refuse to give their details in such circumstances, then it leaves officers with little option, but to arrest until the details are established. Our officers would only arrest as a last resort.
“It was clear that the group was deliberately organising their activities, walking around in twos and then trying to come together in a ‘flash mob’-style approach, as they have done previously. This activity went on for a couple of hours.”
Speaking earlier, the force’s chief constable James Vaughan said:
“I condemn the actions of these selfish individuals who knowingly flouted the lockdown restrictions to carry out this protest activity. Their reckless actions come at a time when our county is facing its highest number of cases since the beginning of this pandemic.
“Nationally and locally the situation is dire. On Friday alone at least 68,000 people contracted the virus in the UK and tragically 1,325 people died.
“Our NHS colleagues in Dorset are struggling to cope with the demand being placed upon them and are putting themselves at risk every day to protect the lives of others. The number of people in Dorset’s hospitals battling coronavirus has doubled since New Year’s Eve and it is anticipated we have not yet reached the peak.
“Our county is gripped with infections and yet these irresponsible individuals have ignored what is being asked of them and have left their homes to protest. Shame on them.
“I fully appreciate the fact that under normal circumstances people have the right to protest under the Human Rights Act. Now is not that time, people are dying.
“I want the people of Dorset to know that there is no clear exemption for people to leave home to protest and it will simply not be tolerated.
“Not only did these people put themselves, their families and the public at risk of infection, they also put our officers at risk while they policed it. I know the vast majority of the public in Dorset support our stance.
“Enough is enough. These people need to stop and recognise the gravity of the situation we are all facing and go home.
“We must not forget the good people of Dorset who are doing their very best, yet again, to follow these stay at home restrictions, protect the NHS and save lives.
“I fully understand the stresses and strain this third lockdown will have on everyone, but I would like to thank the vast majority of our communities for behaving so responsibly and coming together to protect each other.
“Finally, I would like to say how proud I am of our officers and staff, along with all our emergency service colleagues and other key workers, for all they are doing at this extremely difficult time.”
Sam Crowe, Director of Public Health for Dorset and BCP Councils, said:
“I would like to thank the majority of people across Dorset, Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole who have been following the rules to protect the public’s health, month after month.
“But now is the most risky time of all throughout the whole pandemic, with our hospital services close to being overwhelmed. Infection rates locally have been doubling in less than a week. If this carries on, our hospitals will not be able to cope with caring for those needing life-saving treatment.
“No-one wants to be in a lockdown for the third time but unfortunately this is the only choice we have to constrain coronavirus.
“I don’t believe that anyone with personal experience of just how seriously ill this virus can make people, would be breaching lockdown willingly.
“You can have the virus and spread it without having symptoms.
“Stay at home means exactly that – no-one should be leaving home unless for essential reasons like shopping for food, care or for exercise. This is the only way that we will break transmission and start to bring our coronavirus cases down.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said:
“I fully respect people’s right to protest, which is fully enshrined in our culture and laws.
“However, we are in an escalating situation and public services have never been so strained.
“It is completely irresponsible for people to come together to make their protests at this time.
“I support Dorset Police in their tougher stance.
“Please stay at home and help us keep Dorset safe.”
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