Border patrol: The police officers tasked with stopping people coming from England into Wales

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Police in Wales have certainly had to adapt their approach since lockdown began.

In recent weeks, Gwent Police – along with Wales’ three other police forces – have been at the forefront, trying to stop people making unnecessary journeys since lockdown restrictions kicked in. They have also been dealing with stopping needless journeys from England into Wales.

Differing lockdown rules are now in place in Wales and England, and have been so for almost two weeks.

In England, people can sit in their local park and drive to other destinations. In Wales, you can’t; the mantra firmly remains ‘stay at home’ to help save lives.

Gwent Police have begun focusing some of their vehicle journey checks towards the Monmouthshire and Chepstow areas, near the border with England, to nip inessential journeys where drivers are flouting rules in the bud.

WalesOnline joined Gwent Police on a car check operation just outside Monmouth on the A466, which runs right next to the border.

Passing vehicles are directed into a small car park, where officers question drivers about their journeys and carry out routine vehicle safety checks.

Inspector Stefan Williams said officers have been seeing increasing numbers of journeys being made into Wales since UK Government guidelines and Welsh Government guidelines began to differ.



Cars are asked to pull into a small car park



Officers pulled over vehicles travelling near the Welsh border on the A466

Inspector Williams said reports from local residents suggested a number of people from outside the county had been seen in the area that day.

“Obviously some of those reasons may be legitimate because businesses have been given the green light to start opening up,” he said.

“However, there are an awful lot more than [you] would compare with the number of businesses that are permitted to be open.”

During an hour-long operation, officers stopped just over 60 cars on the A466.

One person had driven from Hereford to walk their dogs, while another was on their way to a fishing trip.



Police carried out journey checks and routine vehicle checks

Under current guidelines, people in Wales are permitted to exercise more than once a day, but any exercise should start and end at home and not involve going a significant distance from home.

In comparison, those in England can now drive to other destinations to exercise with other members of their household.

Anyone in England who cannot work from home, including those in construction and manufacturing, are being encouraged to return to work.

In Wales, the advice remains to stay at home unless you are a key worker who cannot work from home.



Gwent police check traffic near Monmouth

Inspector Williams said he believes many people are adapting their own set of rules from the differing guidance given by the Welsh and UK governments.

“People are more and more, with what’s coming out in terms of mixed messages on both sides, meshing things together giving themselves a reason to go out,” he said.

“That’s not strictly complying to what the Welsh Government are saying.

“It’s difficult when we’re operating on different rules when we are right on the border with England as well.

“Unless we stop people to find out what’s going on right on the borders then we don’t know.

“We have had instances certainly down in the Chepstow area where people come across with bikes on their roofs clearly with an intent, and admitting an intent, to go mountain biking.”



60 cars were pulled over in an hour



Officers will be patrolling during the bank holiday weekend

Carrying out these and similar operations, Inspector Williams said he had heard numerous terrible excuses for people being out on the roads.

On one occasion, a man admitted being in the process of dropping his friend off to buy drugs.

Officers are concerned the dry and intermittently sunny bank holiday weather forecast may draw even more people into Wales.

“Bank holiday is an obvious one,” Inspector Williams said.

“There will be resources working in all areas of the county, not just in the border areas.

“We will be dispatching resources to the Monmouthshire area, particularly as it’s forecast for a good day on Monday so the temptation will be there to come to the rivers and come to hills.

“The message remains the same. Please stay in your own counties and if possible in your own homes.”

During their roadside checks, Gwent Police also make routine safety and compliance checks of vehicles.

One man’s car was seized because PS Bob Witherall established it was being driven without insurance.

PS Witherall said: “We have seen an increase in seizures for no insurance and those sorts of things.

“I think that’s partly because people who flaunt the rules tend to flaunt all the rules, not just the one set.

“I personally haven’t seen any vehicle safety issues, but with extension of MOTs etc there is that risk.”

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PS Witherall is a forensic collision investigator who deals with fatal and the most serious crashes.

“From my office’s perspective, certainly we have seen a slight reduction,” he said.

“However, there are still collisions which are occurring which really shouldn’t occur because people aren’t complying with the Covid-19 restrictions.”



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