CHESHIRE Police say they are reviewing the cases of six people summonsed to court over alleged breaches of emergency coronavirus legislation in Warrington.

The force has received criticism from some quarters over what has been perceived as heavy-handed enforcement of the new measures.

At the weekend, half a dozen court summonses were issued over incidents in the town – all coming at around 4am on Sunday, March 29.

In one, officers stopped a car containing two men from different households who were not related and drove from Stockport to Warrington ‘as they were bored’.

A second vehicle carrying a driver and passenger who did not know each other and had met at a house party that night was pulled over.

They told police that they were ‘on their way to a garage’.

Shortly afterwards, a man who was ‘returning from a party’ was stopped in the street by officers.

No further details have been given over an instance of ‘multiple people from the same household going to the shops for non-essential items’, with police having reprimanded them over the weekend.

The Secret Barrister is among those who have been critical of Cheshire Police’s approach, while the National Police Chiefs Council has urged forces to be consistent in their action to enforce lockdown rules.

And the circumstances of these six cases will now be reviewed to ensure that the summonses were ‘proportionate’.

A spokesman for the constabulary said: “On each occasion, officers explained that they were in breach of the new legislation and they were all given the opportunity to engage with officers and comply.

“However, they refused to acknowledge the severity of the situation and the officers felt they were left with no other option than enforcement.

“As this is new legislation, we are reviewing the circumstances of each case to ensure it was proportionate.

“We would like to stress that enforcement is always a last resort.

“Our aim is always to engage with people, explain why they need to go home and encourage them to follow the guidance.”

Chief constable Darren Martland has however praised community spirit in the county and thanked the majority of residents for abiding by the new laws.

He said: “It is really encouraging to see so many people in Cheshire being supportive, listening to the advice, taking it on board and staying at home where they can.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone who is helping to play their part in the national effort.

“This is an unprecedented public health emergency, and we are all having to make adjustments to the new measures which are in place.

“We appreciate the difficulties and uncertainties that we are all facing.

“It is important to remember that this is something none of us have ever experienced before – we are all learning and, by the very nature of what we are dealing with and the fast pace of it, inevitably we will not always get things right as we get to grips with the circumstances.

“Our aim is always to engage with people, explain the reasons behind the new regulations, encourage them to take it on board and support the people we serve to ensure that everyone is fully complying with these restrictions and this is the message I am giving to my officers.

“Sadly, there have been a small number of cases when members of the public have refused and in such cases we may have to take enforcement action against those individuals involved.

“We police by consent and maintaining public confidence and caring for our communities is paramount, so enforcement will always be a last option.”

Warrington Guardian: Commissioner David Keane and Chief Constable Darren Martland

Chief constable Darren Martland and police and crime commissioner David Keane

The chief constable also branded incidents where officers were coughed and spat at as ‘disgraceful’.

Mr Martland said: “This type of behaviour is disgraceful.

“Our officers are working in really challenging circumstances, they are putting their own lives and the lives of their families at risk on a daily basis.

“I want to acknowledge all police officers and police staff, who  - alongside other emergency workers, NHS staff and other key workers – are working on the frontline and are doing outstanding work in exceptionally hard times.

“Our policing style in Cheshire is defined by our neighbourhood policing model, where officers, PCSOs and members of the special constabulary work to protect our communities and provide vital reassurance.

“This model, which has served us well and will continue, has enabled critical relationships to be developed with the public and our partners.

“We have been given extraordinary powers in an extraordinary situation, powers we would not normally wish to have, but I’d like to thank the public for helping and supporting us – we police with the consent of the communities we serve, so a positive relationship with those communities is of huge importance to us.”

Police and crime commissioner David Keane added: “Cheshire Police officers are carrying out a very difficult job in particularly difficult circumstances, so it’s great to see that the majority of our communities are complying by these new measures to keep us safe.

“It is also essential that the new policing measures are enforced proportionately, and I am continuing to work closely with the chief constable to seek assurances that the policing measures used closely follow the new government legislation.

“These new measures have been put in place for a very good reason – to protect our communities, save lives and to relive pressure on our wonderful NHS – and I would encourage you all to follow them.”