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Police investigating reports of officers 'flouting COVID rules' by eating in cafe

Victoria Bell
·3-min read
Police suspected to be dining inside The Chef House Kitchen Cafe, Greenwhich, east London on January 9 2021. (SWNS)
Police suspected to be dining inside The Chef House Kitchen Cafe in Greenwich on 9 January. (SWNS)

Police are investigating images of officers accused of “flouting coronavirus rules” by eating in a cafe, despite lockdown restrictions banning gatherings and restaurants from operating table service.

Photos taken by a passer-by show several police cars parked outside the eatery with a number of officers appearing to be dining inside.

Brian Jennings, 44, regularly walks past the cafe near the Greenwich Patrol Base in Warspite Road, south-east London, for exercise. He claimed he saw officers sat inside eating while the rest of the UK is forbidden from doing so.

A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “We are aware of the images. The officers concerned have been identified and spoken to. Enquiries are ongoing.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown

“Our officers are responsible for enforcing COVID-related legislation and it is important that any allegations of breaches by our own staff are properly investigated and the appropriate action taken.”

Jennings, an IT manager from Blackheath, said he was outraged after reading about members of the public being fined for going for a walk with takeaway drinks.

He said: "There’s a large police depot on the Thames riverside near me. I walk past it a few times a week because it's a nice quiet place to take exercise.

Read more: 'Life will return to normal', says Chris Whitty (but not for a long time)

Photos taken by a passer-by show several police cars parked outside the eatery with a number of officers dining inside, despite restrictions banning gatherings and restaurants from operating table service. (SWNS)
Photos taken by a passer-by appear to show several police cars parked outside the eatery with a number of officers dining inside. (SWNS)

"On the neighbouring industrial estate there’s a cafe. We noticed in the first lockdown and then we noticed it again today that, regularly, first thing in the morning there will be half a dozen squad cars outside and every table full of police officers having breakfast in there.

"It's not a one-off, it's been going on for a few months. You read about people getting fined in the papers and it seems hypocritical as there's no attempt at social distancing in the cafe.

"It's a public cafe and it's open and its serving table service in lockdown – it is not good.

"It's about as bad as it gets in the UK with a virus and it's insensitive and stupid. I think it's really bad.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Police detain several anti lockdown protestors in Brockwell park Brixton whom had initially gathered near Windrush square before heading into the park on January 9, 2021 in London, England. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has filmed an advert for HM Government warning that people should stay home as the COVID-19 virus is spreading across the country. Despite these warnings the protest group StandUpX are demonstrating against coronavirus lockdown measures and vaccines. ( Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images)
Police patrol Brockwell Park in Brixton, London, at the weekend. (Getty)

He added: "I find the regular, continued flouting of social distancing, and lockdown regulations by the police hypocritical and foolish at this time when the infection rates in Greenwich Borough are among the highest in the UK."

It comes as police attempt to crack down on lockdown rule-breakers.

Police have been criticised for issuing fines to people who were outside walking and throwing snowballs over the weekend.

Those throwing snowballs were warned they could be fined under the new lockdown rules.

Outdoor exercise or meeting a friend, while keeping social distance, in a park or public space is deemed to be okay, following suggestions from Boris Johnson.

On Friday, Derbyshire police were heavily criticised after officers fined two women who drove five miles from their homes separately to take a stroll near a reservoir while drinking takeaway cups of tea.

The two friends, who were fined £200 each, claimed that the officers told them they were not allowed to bring a hot drink on a walk because it was “classed as a picnic”. The fines were rescinded on Monday.

Read more: NHS facing ‘most dangerous situation anyone can remember’, says health chief

Also on Monday, the prime minister warned lockdown might need to be tightened if the rules were not “properly observed”.

Johnson said the regulations would be kept “under constant review” and that people "need to focus". But some experts argue it is the rules themselves, rather than compliance, that are ineffective at curbing soaring infections.

Watch: PM warns of stricter Covid restrictions in England