The police will no longer be able to enforce lockdown because Dominic Cummings’ actions have completely undermined their authority with the public, it was claimed last night.
Senior policing figures and frontline officers said they feared people would no longer be willing to adhere to the Government’s guidance, making their job virtually impossible.
Many senior officers had already admitted they were struggling to explain the rules to an increasingly confused public.
But after the Prime Minister’s most senior aide travelled 260 miles from London to Durham to self-isolate at his parents’ home, one former Chief Constable said the Government’s guidelines were dead in the water.
Mike Barton, the former Chief Constable of Durham Police, told the Telegraph: “How on earth are the police supposed to enforce the rules now? What has happened has completely holed the legislation that was introduced to keep people safe, below the waterline. It is dead in the water.
“It was already difficult for the police to get right because there were these strident messages coming from the Government. In a few minor cases some forces made a few mistakes, but generally the public was very receptive to the message. That has now gone.”
Brian Booth, West Yorkshire Police Federation Rep, also said enforcement would now become impossible.
He said: “Throughout the lockdown the vast majority of the public have abided by the rules for the greater good. For many it has come at great personal sacrifice.
“But when they see a senior government aide appearing to breach the lockdown what are they supposed to think?
“It really does undermine what we are trying to achieve. We already have it hard with smart alecs who think they know the law better than us and this just plays into their hands.
“It is not the Government who will be left picking up the pieces from this, but all the frontline officers who are trying to keep the public safe.”
Relations between the police and Downing Street have also been further undermined by a row over the Durham force’s handling of the situation.
Despite initial denials from Number 10 that the police had spoken to anyone in the Cummings family over an alleged breach of the lockdown, it has now emerged that officers actually spoke to his father twice.
On Friday evening, a spokesman for Durham Police issued a statement which did not name Mr Cummings, but confirmed that officers had been made aware of reports that a person had travelled from London to an address in Durham in breach of the lockdown rules.
The statement said: “Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.
“In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”
But on Saturday morning, Downing Street directly contradicted that statement when a spokesman said: “At no stage was he [Mr Cummings] or his family spoken to about this matter, as is being reported.”
The statement from Number 10 was said to have caused genuine anger among senior officers at Durham, with one source saying: “It called into doubt our integrity and honesty.”
A short time later, the force issued a second statement, which despite College of Policing guidance recommending suspects are not named before charge, identified Mr Cummings.
The statement said: “On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware that Dominic Cummings had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.
“At the request of Mr Cummings’ father, an officer made contact the following morning by telephone.
“During that conversation, Mr Cummings’ father confirmed that his son had travelled with his family from London to the North East and was self-isolating in part of the property.
“Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required. However, the officer did provide advice in relation to security issues.”
It is understood that it was in fact Mr Cummings’ father who had contacted the police to alert them of his presence in the area and discuss any necessary security arrangements.
During that conversation, officers reminded Mr Cummings senior that his son’s journey from London to the North East was in breach of the Government’s lockdown rules.
However a source said: “It was decided, in line with the way Durham Police have chosen to deal with the lockdown, to offer advice and guidance, rather than take the matter any further.”
The Telegraph can reveal that Durham Police spoke to Mr Cummings senior for a second time earlier this month, after a journalist contacted the force alerting them to allegations that his son was once again in the area.
A source said: “Officers spoke to Mr Cummings senior to check if there was any truth in claims that his son was staying with him again and they were reassured it was not the case. The rumours had been circulating on social media and had been flagged up by a journalist. The officers were reassured it was not true and did not take the matter any further.”