DORSET Police is cracking down on illegal anti-lockdown protests in the county.

Police have put a 'full and detailed' plan in place to prevent unlawful protests breaking Covid-19 legislation, after three people were arrested in relation to a protest last Saturday, and further protests are expected this weekend.

The law states that gatherings of more than two people are illegal during lockdown.

In a bid to reassure the public, the force revealed that a planned protest at Bournemouth Town Hall last Saturday did not take place due to police action.

Officers cordoned off the area and issued warning notices to prevent people from attending or gathering - however protest organisers have claimed on social media that they 'tricked' police with a last-minute change of location.

A Dorset Police spokesman said: "At 2.15pm the same day the force received reports of a spontaneous demonstration taking place outside the Royal Bournemouth Hospital. Dedicated patrol officers attended and the group was dispersed.

"Further warning notices were issued and three people were arrested on suspicion of breach of the coronavirus regulations. Two people were de-arrested at the scene and will be reported for offences under the coronavirus regulations.

"A 52-year-old woman from Ringwood in Hampshire has been released under investigation while enquiries continue."

Superintendent Jared Parkin, of Dorset Police, said: “We are aware that further protests are intended to take place in Dorset again this coming weekend and we are actively engaging with the organisers to prevent them from occurring.

“Our officers will continue to use a 'four E's' approach of escalation, where they will engage, explain and encourage people to follow the regulations.

"Enforcement remains the final option and we will take positive action against individuals in breach of the legislation to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“The right to protest is well established in this country and police forces have a long history of upholding this by policing by consent and ensuring the safety of all those exercising that right.

“However, in the current lockdown situation Government legislation makes it quite clear that gatherings of more than two people are unlawful. This allows the police service to take positive action against those breaching these laws.

"Tragically coronavirus is a deadly disease that has taken the life of more than 50,000 people in the UK and we cannot allow protests to take place and risk increasing the R rate. Gatherings of more than two people are unlawful under the new coronavirus regulations and I urge people to abide by these laws.

“We owe it to our communities and health services to ensure that people do not break the current coronavirus restrictions, which are in place to prevent the disease from spreading further and taking more lives.”

Dedicated officers continue to patrol the county to deal with Covid-19 issues and provide the public with the visibility and reassurance they deserve. Their role will be to engage with the public, partners and businesses, respond to any Covid-19 concerns and patrol known hotspots.

Superintendent Jared Parkin added: “I would like to yet again thank the overwhelming majority of our communities for doing their bit to keep people safe. I would like to thank them, remind them to keep up the good work and reassure them we are here to deal with those individuals who are not complying.”