Should I report a neighbour for not social distancing?

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Jan 4, 2021

Should I report a neighbour for not social distancing?

New research suggests we’re closer to our neighbours than ever before. But should you report a neighbour for breaking social distancing guidelines under the new ‘rule of six’?

With much more time spent at home during the pandemic, 2020 has truly tested our relationships with our neighbours. Even if the people that lived next door were total strangers before lockdown, it seems most of us have spent time getting to know next-door a little better.

A new survey by Share to Buy has revealed that six in 10 UK homeowners (65%) are closer to their neighbours than ever. Across the UK, more than half of Brits feel they have gotten to know their neighbours better thanks to an increased sense of solidarity from clapping for carers every Thursday and lending a helping hand with tasks during the outbreak.

This concurs with recent research by comparethemarket, which suggests that as many as 86% of us feel that we have a good relationship with at least one next-door neighbour.

But, under the government’s new ‘rule of six’ guidelines, what should you do if you know your neighbour isn’t sticking to social distancing rules? It’s become a moral dilemma.

What is the rule of six?

The government’s new ‘rule of six’, which came into force on Monday 14 September, makes it illegal for people in England, Scotland and Wales to gather socially in groups of more than six people.

Regulations allowing police to enforce the rules were published on Sunday night. Officers have the power to fine people £100 - doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200 for repeated breaches of restrictions. Police have urged the public to take personal responsibility and “stick to the limits.”

Please note: restrictions may differ in England than in the rest of the country. If you are not sure of the rules in your area, seek clarity from the government’s social distancing guidelines and exemptions.

If you see large groups (including your neighbours) regularly gathering and deliberately ignoring these rules, there are various actions you can take.

Should you report someone for breaking social distancing rules?

The UK’s crime and policing minister has told Brits they should report neighbours they suspect have broken new restrictions on social gatherings.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, minister Kit Malthouse said anyone concerned about potential violations of the restrictions could report them to the non-emergency police line (101) if they wish to. When pressed on whether this would include reporting on neighbours for breaches of social gathering limits, Malthouse said: “If they are concerned and they do see that kind of thing, then, absolutely, they should think about it.”

However, National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) chairman Martin Hewitt has denied that enforcement of the rule of six relies on people “grassing up” their neighbours, speaking to BBC Breakfast.

“We all have a responsibility to do what we can do, to take the steps that are required to stop the transmission and to abide by regulations so we can prevent this disease moving further through the country.”

How do I report breaches of social distancing?

If you become aware of a large gathering of people who are obviously from many different households, you can get in contact with the police to report it.

If you are concerned that there is a severe threat to public safety and health, call 999. If you’re worried but don’t think it is an emergency, you can call 101 for more information about how to report it.

Several police forces have also set up specific portals for reporting social distancing breaches in their areas, to take the strain off the non-emergency 101 line. If you know which is your local constabulary, it’s advised to go to that specific website for more details.

If you’re not sure which your local constabulary is you can go to the website, to report a possible breach of coronavirus measures through their online form. Here you can specify the location of the crime as well as how many people are suspected to be in the group.

Please remember, although restrictions on gatherings have been put in place to protect lives and the NHS, it is extremely important to consider the threat level when reporting breaches - and which method you choose for reporting. The police must be able to respond to emergencies. For instance, Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s portal states: “Do not use this form to report minor infringements.”

As ever, we encourage you to approach situations with kindness. Remember that some people are exempt from social distancing guidelines and you do not always know what other people are going through. We are each responsible for our own actions and, by ensuring that you are following government guidelines, you are doing your bit to protect lives and the NHS.

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