THE chief constable of Dorset Police has warned that officers will be moving to enforcement against those who breach Covid-19 regulations action more quickly.

Public protests will not be tolerated and drivers that are picked up as being at the wheel of vehicles from far away, such as London and the Midlands, will be questioned, the force has confirmed.

The latest message from Chief Constable James Vaughan comes days after officers implemented a strong response to anti-lockdown protesters in Bournemouth town centre and fined people for travelling from Coventry to Durdle Door.

Dorset’s most senior officer said he was a “fierce advocate” of free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to protest, but now was not the time for people to be taking to the streets.

Chief Constable Vaughan told the Daily Echo: “We have been very proportionate, using engage, explain, encourage, but we are going to move more quickly to enforcement.

“We are going to do that in a forensic way. We are not going to suddenly become unreasonable with the law-abiding members of the public and start giving people tickets for going for a walk with the dog and those kind of things.

“We are going to focus on deliberate, dangerous, irresponsible behaviour such as protests at this time. We are not going to tolerate protests. We will definitely take action against people who take to the streets.

“We will take firm action against people that claim they do not understand the travel restrictions and travel in from miles outside to the county to go to the beaches. We won’t be using the three Es for people who come here from Coventry, for example. They are going to get a ticket.”

Yesterday, Chief Constable Vaughan said there were more than 400 Dorset hospital patients with Covid-19.

He described the situation with the pandemic locally as “quite dire”, but added that most residents in the county were following the guidance.

Expanding on the approach Dorset Police will be taking in the coming weeks, Chief Constable Vaughan said: “We are not going to set up roadblocks. We never have and this is not roadblock territory but we will be focusing on arterial routes, using things like automatic number plate recognition.

Bournemouth Echo: Chief Constable James VaughanChief Constable James Vaughan

“People with London number plates or Coventry number plates, for example, travelling in the county are going to be stopped.

“We are going to ask what are you doing here and if they are not here for a really good reason they are going to get tickets because we are sending a message to those people who are just being stupid to be frank.”

The chief constable said driving a couple of miles to get to an open space for exercise was not an issue.

However, he did not expect people from Shaftesbury to be driving to Lyme Regis or people in Weymouth to travel to Bournemouth, for example.

He added: “There are always those who will push and push it, which makes enforcing the guidance very difficult.”