14:16, March 31 227 0 theguardian.com

2020-03-31 14:16:04
Overzealous police will soon lose public respect

There seems to be an attitude, not just among the police but also among the public, that because these are tough times, we should all pay some sort of penance (UK police warned against ‘overreach’ in use of virus lockdown powers, 30 March). I’ve even heard of police shouting “This is not a holiday” to people. Well excuse me for not wanting to self-flagellate! Even if this was in response to people grouping together, such a comment is appalling, as it implies that the police are simply opposed to people enjoying themselves, when they should just be professionally upholding the laws limiting viral spread. Frankly, we don’t need attitude from the police when times are already tough.

If people are not social distancing or if they are otherwise doing something that might increase viral spread (based on formal scientific advice, not just a police officer’s personal opinion) then, yes, enforce the law and fine or use force where necessary. I have encountered such behaviour when walking near my flat on Plymouth Hoe and I find it every bit as abhorrent and as selfish as everyone else does. Otherwise, people should be allowed to go about their lives. We are not under house arrest, this is a free country, and everyone should only be concerned with observing or enforcing well-defined, science-based legal measures that will limit viral spread.

If the police lose public respect (and they are currently going about it the right away), we’re really stuffed.

John Turner


Lord Sumption is absolutely correct to criticise Derbyshire police for apparently believing that they had to enforce government guidance, as opposed to the law. The job of the police, as ever, is to apply the law and not government opinion or diktats. The reason is simple: the view of any government may change from day to day and from minister to minister, whereas the law is fixed unless and until changed. I fear that a heavy-handed and totally unwarranted approach by the police may be the thin end of the wedge. We live in difficult times, but that is no reason for us to be careless or carefree about preserving our hard-won democratic and civil liberties, whatever the police may think.

Dr Stephen Pacey

(Retired judge), North Muskham, Nottinghamshire

Lord Sumption’s familiarity with history is, alas, far inferior to his knowledge of law (Covid-19: ex-supreme court judge lambasts ‘disgraceful’ policing, 30 March). Contrary to his claims, totalitarian regimes – whether Nazi or communist – did not arise because citizens voluntarily surrendered their liberty in exchange for state protection, as any understanding of the revolutions of 1917 or 1933 will demonstrate, but because of the treacherous power grabs of the would-be dictators and their cronies. There is simply no analogy between the actions of our police and the Gestapo or the NKVD. It is not the government that is being hysterical, it is Lord Sumption.

Jeremy Adler

King’s College London

There has been the most lively criticism of the dyeing of the Buxton “blue lagoon”. This pool has been described by Lord Sumption as a “beauty spot”. I can only think he has never been there. And he shouldn’t.

I live over the hill from Buxton. I can tell you categorically that this evil pool is not a beauty spot. It is a body of water with a pH similar to ammonia or bleach. It is the result of limestone quarrying. The startlingly blue water is speciously attractive. It is a desolate place, difficult to reach, and there are notices everywhere warning you not to enter the water. Rubbish litters the area – anything less like a beauty spot is hard to imagine. It has been dyed black before to deter visitors tempted to take a dip in its poisonous waters.

Those who like to condemn this action, which was solely to protect the idle public who go up there out of sight to gather in groups, may be heartened to know that such is the powerful chemical composition of this pool and its surroundings that soon it will regain its alluring but malevolent Bahama blue colour. We can only repress nature so much before it resumes its status quo.

Susan Whitham