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Covid-19: How Portsmouth’s services are working hard to keep us safe this weekend

Following concerns raised with Stephen Morgan MP over recent days about anti-social behaviour on Southsea Common, the Hotwalls, other public spaces including parks in Milton, Fratton, and across the whole constituency, Stephen continues to take action on behalf of constituents to ensure the police, council and other bodies are doing all they can to address issues.

As result of further conversations, lobbying and liaison with senior officers today, the following is an update on efforts by key public services and what we can expect this weekend for the Bank Holiday to manage the situation:

Hampshire Constabulary efforts

 Stephen is in regular contact with the District Commander and his senior leadership team and receives a full briefing on the police’s response to the coronavirus crisis weekly.

The police locally have dedicated Covid patrol teams, who will be resourced for Portsmouth this weekend. They also have response and patrol teams with a patrol plan to focus upon locations, where the community have guided the force to consider in relation to groups gathering and breaches of Covid-19 guidance compliance taking place.

Community Wardens will also be patrolling across the city including supporting the Hotwalls area and Southsea Common.

Working with the city council additional security will be provided in some locations and a community advisers foot team will be pro-active in engaging with the public again on social distancing.

Street Pastors will also be providing support engaging with members of the public, and the Ministry of Defence police will be on duty assisting across the constituency.

Portsmouth City Council efforts

Stephen has also been liaising with the city council over what they can do to address issues being raised.  Officers have assured me they are very aware of the gathering of groups in recent days but inform me the vast majority of users of both the seafront and parks spaces are families and the general public practicing effect social distancing which having picnics, BBQs or taking exercise.

The council are taking forward our concerns with some additional measures to ensure public open spaces are as safely accessible as possible.

They have arranged a wide range of staff to be present across the seafront and city parks and specifically this weekend there will be officers supporting and responding to any physical damage all across the seafront from beach huts to notice boards; teams managing the deployment of resources across the open spaces; grounds maintenance providing the cleansing service across the grassed areas; a Community Advisor team – walking patrols who operate from the Hotwalls to Canoe Lake offering pro-active advice on social distancing and general information and the Seafront Management responsive to issues as they arise

In addition to these, council staff at PCC have also contracted additional security to have a presence at the Hotwalls area, especially when we feel the weather and tides are likely to be attractive to visitors. They are scheduled to have a presence in this area throughout the weekend.

On top of this they have are deploying 350+ additional high visibility signs to support social distancing right across the seafront area. The signs are gradually being enhanced with further messaging to support the recent government changes to how people can use spaces, and these are being rolled out from today.

The council’s social media will also remain very active from encouraging only sensible involvement in water activities in light of there currently being no lifeguard presence across the seafront, to ensuring the public are clear on the road closures.  The road closures remain in place to support safer social distancing and to support the increased numbers of cyclists using the seafront area.  A specific Bank Holiday campaign is asking people to please follow the guidance, stay home as much as they can – and do not visit Portsmouth yet.

The council has instigated a daily checking of provision such as beach huts and sites where fitness equipment is located, again to ensure the correct messaging out to the public and also to ensure that any fencing or closure measures we have had to put in place remain secure.

We are very aware of the gathering of groups of young men on the Common in the last couple of days but up the vast majority of users of both the seafront and parks spaces are families and the general public practicing effect social distancing which having picnics, BBQs or taking exercise.

What enforcement powers do authorities have?

The police and local authorities have the powers to enforce the requirements set out in law if people do not comply with them. If you breach these regulations, the police may: instruct you to go home, leave an area or disperse; instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules if they have already done so; or; take you home, or arrest you, where they believe it necessary

The police will act with discretion and common sense in applying these measures and we expect the public to act responsibly, staying at home in order to save lives.

However, if the police believe that you have broken the law – or if you refuse to follow their instructions enforcing the law – a police officer may issue you with a fixed penalty notice for £60 (reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days). If you have already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence, up to a maximum of £960.

Stephen understands the government are keeping this under review and will increase the penalties if necessary to ensure compliance.

Update on incidents in recent days

Four people have been arrested following a public order incident at Southsea Common. Officers were called at 6.09pm on Thursday 21 May to a report of a fight amongst a large group of people. Shortly afterwards, we received a report that a group of males were trying to gain access to a property in Nightingale Road. Officers arrived and four people were arrested.

Those arrested are:

  • A 21-year-old man from Essex, arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place
  • Two 17-year-old boys from Portsmouth, both arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply
  • A 16-year-old boy from Portsmouth, arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply

All four remain in police custody. A meat cleaver and bottles were seized. Three boys attended Queen Alexandra Hospital following this incident. No serious injuries were reported.

As a result of this incident and the associated anti-social behaviour, a dispersal order has been authorised, which will run from 4pm today (Friday 22 May) until 3:59pm on Sunday 24 May and covers the areas of Southsea Common and immediate surrounding roads and The Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth.

The order gives a police officer the power to order a person to leave the area for a 48-hour period with no return. Refusal to comply with the order is a criminal offence.

The order, which has to be authorised by a police inspector, is made under the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Section 34).

Government support to Portsmouth

Stephen continues to lobby Government to make sure local public services have the resources they need to respond to the pandemic. He remains concerned by how stretched local services are and the impact this has. He has written to the relevant Secretary of State to urge for the department to give the council and police extra power and resources to deal with the anti-social behaviour being undertaken in the constituency. He will continue to work with others on this important lobbying work.

Separately the Government have published new guidance on enforcement this week which Stephen is keen to ensure local service providers utilise as quickly as possible.

Updated 23 May 2020 at 08.00