Fresh fury as more reckless gangs gather on Southsea Common 'putting lives at risk'

FRESH pictures showing huge groups of teenagers and young adults gathering in Southsea have sparked a new wave of outrage, prompting concerns social distancing measures are ‘being ignored’.

By Tom Cotterill
Friday, 22nd May 2020, 2:44 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 5:24 pm

Yesterday The News revealed images of a group of more than 30 youngsters massing on Southsea Common, flouting government rules designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Under the nation’s lockdown rules, individuals can only meet up with one other person outside their household.

The blatant disregard was met with outrage, with Portsmouth’s council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson warning ‘lives were being put at risk’.

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Huge groups of people gather on Southsea Common, breaking strict lockdown measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Hampshire police insisted they were engaging with youths congregating on the Common in a bid to prevent further large gatherings.

But photographs taken last night show measures are still being ignored by gangs of people across Southsea, sparking fresh fury in the city.

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Outraged Steve Pitt, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council, has lashed out at the reckless groups and said: ‘It’s impossible with all the messaging that’s out there for people to say that they don’t know they shouldn’t be congregating in large groups. They’re choosing to ignore that advice and it’s very upsetting.

Huge groups of people gather on Southsea Common, breaking strict lockdown measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

‘Portsmouth has done really so far but these people are putting all of that good work at risk; they’re risking the lives of key workers, they’re risking vulnerable people and members of their own families.

‘It’s utterly irresponsible and they should stop it.’

The situation also enraged pensioners in the city who are trying to shield themselves from the coronavirus.

Portsmouth resident Robert Higgins said: ‘I am 70 and staying isolated but hundreds if not thousands are on the promenade or beaches in large groups especially the last few days with the hot weather.

Furious: Councillor Steve Pitt, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council. Photo: Sarah Standing (090320-9866)

‘There are too many people who don't care and the police have an impossible job to control the gatherings.’

Last night the Common was strewn with rubbish left dumped by careless groups.

Among the trash were dozens of empty nitrous oxide capsules, better known as laughing gas, which is often used as a legal high.

Councillor Pitt added the council was ‘powerless’ to enforce social distancing and said that was the responsibility of police, who were ‘hugely’ stretched across the city.

But the authority has taken measures to try and encourage groups of people to stop massing on the Common.

Workers from the city’s museum service have been drafted in to act as community advisers, alongside the council wardens.

Likewise, street pastors have also been deployed at weekends with the council also employing private security personnel.

But Cllr Pitt said: ‘Ultimately, we have no powers to force groups to split up. The only people who do have those powers are the police and obviously they’re hugely spread across the whole city.

‘People’s behaviour is their own responsibility and they need to take responsibility for their own behaviour and help to keep everyone else safe.’

Hampshire police has been approached for comment.

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