DRIVERS could be randomly checked by police to see if their journey is essential after police forces were handed new powers to enforce social distancing guidelines.

Officers from forces across the country have been given the power to enforce rules on staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel.

According to government guidelines, if members of the public do not comply the police may: instruct them to go home, leave an area or disperse, ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules, issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days or issue a fixed penalty notice of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence

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Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice under the regulations could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where deemed "proportionate and necessary."

As a result, drivers may be pulled over by officers and asked why they are travelling.

Chief superintendent Tom Harding from West Mercia Police said: “Please don’t be surprised in the current circumstances for officers to ask some motorists whether they have a valid reason for being on the roads. We will take enforcement action if required, but only if it is necessary and proportionate.

“Similarly officers will be in our communities on foot providing visible reassurance and engaging with the public, we always appreciate a smile and a chat, although now observing social distancing.

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“I’m really pleased to see the majority of people are listening to government’s request for us to limit non-essential movement as this is helping to support the work of the NHS. For the minority who think it’s still okay to ignore the warnings then we won’t shy aware from using our enforcement powers to protect our communities.

“We have been out speaking with the public and conducting roads policing checks which involves randomly stopping people to make sure their journey is within the rules.

“This global pandemic is a national emergency and I am sure we will all work together to help protect the elderly, the vulnerable and those most at risk in our communities. By following the national advice we can all help to make a difference.”