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Speak or sneak: Would you report an illegal gathering?

PUBLISHED: 10:59 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:59 17 September 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Prime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Boris Johnson has urged the public to speak to groups thought to be breaking new rules on gatherings before reporting them to police.

Prime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: PA ImagesPrime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: PA Images

The prime minister has encouraged people to “speak” rather than “sneak” if the rule of six is being ignored.

It comes after new legislation designed to stop the spread of coronavirus was introduced, limiting social gatherings to no more than six people.

The law varies in the UK’s different nations, but in England it applies to all ages in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Speaking to the Sun, Mr Johnson said: “I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself.

“What people should do in the first instance is obviously - if they are concerned - raise it with their friends and neighbours.”

Referencing the 1978 film, National Lampoon’s Animal House, he added: “But I think what is reasonable for anyone to do is if they think there is a serious threat to public health as a result of their neighbour’s activities - if there is some huge kind of Animal House party taking place, as I am sure, hot tubs and so forth - and there is a serious threat to public health, then it’s reasonable for the authorities to know.”

Police have been given the power to break up gatherings of more than six, with those who defy the rules liable to receiving a £100 fine which could rise to £3,200 with each offence.

But Mr Johnson’s comments differ from those of policing minister, Kit Malthouse, who said people should report neighbours using the 101 service.

Prime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: Ian BurtPrime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: Ian Burt

“It is open to neighbours to do exactly that through the non-emergency number,” added Mr Malthouse.

“And if they are concerned and they do see that kind of thing, then absolutely they should think about it.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, home secretary Priti Patel also said she would be willing to raise concerns with police.

She told the Today programme: “I think anybody would want to take responsibility and ensure we’re not spreading this awful disease and therefore if I saw gatherings of more than six people clearly I would report that.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPrime minister Boris Johnson says the public should speak to people breaking the coronavirus rule of six before reporting them to police. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

We asked EDP readers whether they would report their neighbours to the police for breaking the rules, and an overwhelming majority of the hundreds who responded said they would not.

Katie Lewis said she wouldn’t, adding: “I couldn’t care less what other people do in their own homes.”

Reader Tina Devlin said: “No and you should stop being so nosy and snooping on your neighbours anyway. Mind your own business.”

Anthony Baker said he would adopt Boris Johnson’s advice, adding: “I’d have a polite conversation but nothing more than that. I think we have to be wary of people’s situations.”


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