Residents: UK Police Are Searching Shopping Bags, Fining People if Items Aren't 'Essential'


In an attempt to tamp down on so-called nonessential public excursions amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, police in the United Kingdom are reportedly ramping up citation efforts.

According to an April 8 report from Edinburgh Live, a government guidance released on March 23 permits British residents to depart their places of residence only under a “very limited” set of circumstances, which includes essential grocery shopping, medical emergencies, exercise and work-related travel — and nothing else.

Scottish law enforcement officers are reportedly taking that order very seriously — so seriously, in fact, that they have begun fining locals for everything from supermarket snack runs to unapproved rides on public transportation.

The outlet reported that authorities have gone so far in attempting to enforce social distancing that shoppers have been asked to hand over their bags for routine search upon exiting the grocery store.

Those with items deemed “nonessential” run the risk of receiving a ticket.

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One such shopper was confirmed by Edinburgh Live to have been fined £30 for being caught purchasing only wine and snacks on a single trip to the store.

This is not believed to have been an isolated occurrence, with another unnamed Scottish citizen reportedly “given a fine for buying a bottle of prosecco.”

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A friend of the individual later called out local law enforcement over the incident on Twitter, writing, “Your officers went through her bag and fined her because that’s all she bought. May I remind you that alcohol is permitted to be bought and that your fascism is not on!”

Yet what is and is not considered an “essential” grocery item is not so black and white. No guidance has been given as to what foods should and should not be purchased at this time, leaving police with an extraordinary amount of discretion.

The outlet did suggest that authorities may not be abusing that discretion, however, instead fining the individuals in question for failure to comply with officer requests for identification or simple cooperation.

Regardless, British citizens seem to be growing impatient with such action, similarly labeling other social distancing enforcement measures as state overreach.

A handful of locals have reported being fined for repeatedly leaving the house to allow pets to relieve themselves, while one 41-year-old York resident is said to have been arrested and fined £660 by British Transport Police for “loitering” at Newcastle Central train station earlier this month for refusing to tell authorities why she was traveling.

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Some citizens have even taken to Twitter to post video of officers responding in a controversial manner to improper social distancing, accusing passersby of contributing to the public health emergency and even conducting raids on houses said to be hosting guests.

WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.

Concerns of potential governmental overreaction amid the ongoing pandemic have also been raised in the United States, where similar stay-at-home orders have been put in place across the nation to encourage social distancing.

And those orders have not been without enforcement stateside.

Just this week, three Colorado men were arrested and charged with several misdemeanor offenses apiece for allegedly violating a state public health order by gathering at a friend’s private residence.

Nearby suburban father Matt Mooney of Brighton was detained and handcuffed by local police two weeks prior for playing T-ball with his 6-year-old daughter in a seemingly empty public park.

Restrictive policies and threatened government enforcement managed to trigger protests in Michigan’s capital of Lansing on Wednesday, as Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the state’s stay-at-home despite widespread belief the U.S. is nearing a peak in the coronavirus outbreak.

Though discussions are being had in many nations regarding official plans to reopen local economies, few hard deadlines have yet been given as to when daily life will return to normal.

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Andrew J. Sciascia was the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal. Having joined up as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, he went on to cover the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for the outlet, regularly co-hosting its video podcast, "WJ Live," as well.
Andrew J. Sciascia was the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal and regularly co-hosted the outlet's video podcast, "WJ Live."

Sciascia first joined up with The Western Journal as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, before graduating with a degree in criminal justice and political science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and worked briefly as a political operative with the Massachusetts Republican Party.

He covered the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for The Western Journal. His work has also appeared in The Daily Caller.