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A WOMAN appears to have been arrested “for sitting on a bench” after cops were told to fine rule-breakers £200 following just one verbal warning.

New guidance has been issued to chief constables as part of a tough new crackdown on coronavirus lockdown flouters.

It comes amid warnings from experts that current lockdown restrictions are “too lax” – and could fail to bring down the rate of infection if Brits ignore “stay at home” orders.

A Home Office source told the Sunday Telegraph that officers would fine rule-breakers more quickly, warning: “We are going to see more rapid movement to enforcement. 

Footage has now emerged showing three cops surrounding a woman for allegedly leaving her home more than once in the same day.

Meanwhile, four officers appeared to arrest a woman who claimed she was just “sitting on a bench” on the same seafront.

The new guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, issued to forces on January 6, reads: “Officers should continue to engage members of the public and explain changes.

“However if the individual or group does not respond appropriately, then enforcement can follow without repeated attempts to encourage people to comply with the law.”

The guidance adds that officers should continue to police “by consent”, and the “initial police response should be to encourage voluntary compliance”. 

Previous NPCC guidance did not specify how many attempts officers should make to encourage voluntary compliance when dealing with the public.

Anyone caught by cops without a reasonable excuse could be slapped with a £200 fixed penalty notice for their first offence, with this doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

Those holding, or involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people risk a police-issued fine of £10,000.

Brits must wear a mask in all indoor public spaces such as shops and supermarkets or face a £200 fine – though exemptions apply to children under 11 and those with certain medical conditions.

Home Secretary Priti Patel last night defended cops amid concern over tougher enforcement after two women claimed they were surrounded and fined £200 each for driving five miles to walk in a park. 

“Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.”

The crackdown comes amid fears that public compliance with restrictions is lower than the first lockdown in March last year, which successfully reduced the rate of infection. 

Boris Johnson pleaded with Brits to stay at home after the UK passed the grim milestone of 80,000 fatalities on Saturday – with cases continuing to surge.

According to the Telegraph, ministers are hesitant to impose further restrictions but hope that tougher enforcement combined with a ‘Stay At Home’ advertising blitz, fronted by Professor Chris Whitty, will keep Brits indoors. 

Meanwhile, Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, said the current lockdown was “too lax” to stop the bug from spreading.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “It is definitely too lax, because if you think about it and compare ourselves with March, what do we have now?

“We have the winter season and the virus survives longer in the cold, plus people spend more time indoors and we know aerosol transmission, which happens indoors, is a very big source of transmission for this virus.

“You put those two things together, alongside the NHS being in crisis, we should have a stricter rather than less strict lockdown than we had back in March.”

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News – Cops told to fine people £200 if they don’t go home at FIRST time of asking