Police officers initially tried to enforce coronavirus lockdown rules based on "stark" messages from politicians rather than new legislation, MPs have heard.

Simon Kempton, from the Police Federation, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that normally officers would be trained before new legislation came into force.

But lockdown powers under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations and the Coronavirus Act were brought in so quickly that this was not possible.

He said: "We had a period of time, several days, where actually our only briefing was the very clear, very stark guidance that ministers and other Government officials were giving to the public.

"We didn't at that time have anything in writing, and that might have led to some of the inconsistencies in approach."

British Transport Police was one force that had to row back after incorrectly fining Marie Dinou, 41, of Oak Tree Close, York, £660 for apparently attempting to take an unnecessary train journey in Newcastle.

And Cheshire police admitted that action to summons five people for being "out for a drive due to boredom", "returning from parties" as well as "multiple people from the same household going to the shops for 'non-essential' items" was incorrect.

The College of Policing has issued national guidance on how the new laws should be used.

Mr Kempton said that the police's relationship with the public should not be sacrificed amid the outbreak.

He said: "At the minute we're in the middle of this pandemic, and it's scary and it's unprecedented but it's going to end.

"And when it ends the public are going to emerge and it's going to be a very different world, they will have lost their jobs, their businesses. And they're going to need protecting by the police at that point.

"We can best protect them, not just by having the right equipment, but by maintaining that relationship. I'm really proud of the relationship that we've got with the public.

"What we need to do is get that balance - protecting the NHS while protecting that relationship with the public."

Paul Griffiths, from the Police Superintendents Association, said that initially officers were guided by "policy intent" rather than the new law.

He told the committee that the legislation "has been introduced at a pace and at a scale that we have never experienced before".

Mr Griffiths added: "Very early on there was probably some confusion. There was a real need for a clear and consistent message both from the government, from the police and other agencies about what this meant.

"I think a lot of officers relied on the policy intent before the law was enacted."