26 March Update

Derbyshire Police sent out their drone unit to and ‘beauty spots’ in the Peak district, and tweeted footage captured at Curbar Edge the night before. The camera zoomed in to isolated people questioning why they were out there, and blaming them for walking their dog and not staying at home. The police tweeted: ‘Daily exercise should be taken locally to your home. Under government guidance all travel is limited to essential travel only.’ While many on Twitter thought that it was the police going too far, and did they not have better things to do, Derbyshire Police continued to defend their action, saying they had done it to get the message through. (The Global Times suggested, the police was inspired by the sharp-tongued drones used in China, berating people for not wearing masks.)

Adam Wagner, human rights barrister at Doughty Street, tried to figure out how this was lawful, and concluded there is a confusing difference between the government’s directions and what is in the Coronavirus law. In a long thread, detailing his concerns, Wagner says: ‘Importantly, there’s no general “essential trip” requirement for police to enforce. For a trip to be lawful a person must have “reasonable excuse” and there are a number of those including to “take exercise” – no requirement for that to be “essential”. So I see no reason why it is unlawful for people to take exercise wherever they want, including in parks and local ‘beauty spots’, as long as not gathering in groups of more than 3 not part of their household (though that isn’t very clear to be fair)’.

Meanwhile, police Humberside police creates online report portal for people not social distancing. The force says the portal has been made in response to an increase in the number of calls to its non-emergency 101 number following the government’s announcement earlier this week around new police powers to disperse groups. Northamptonshire Police said the force control room has had “dozens and dozens” of calls about people ignoring the order, including reports from people whose neighbours are gathering in their back gardens. A spokes person for the police said “We won’t have police officers crashing through garden fences to check the ID of everyone… We wouldn’t want to discourage people from making us aware, but we have to set expectations.” Adding however: “But be under no illusion, we will be using these powers if necessary.”

Devon & Cornwall Police has issued an update to parents saying “potentially, failure to adhere to… instructions could be deemed as a failure to safeguard your children… Partner agencies will be informed where we have concerns about people’s abilities to parent their children.”

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