After a number of days where there have been repeated concerns about the implementation of emergency powers, the police’s own lawyers have advised them that they are wrongly applying the lockdown regulations. A guide produced by barristers at 5 Essex Court chambers pointed out that the rules do not restrict outside exercise to only once a day or prevent driving to a quiet place to exercise.
Interesting as well is the newly drawn up Interview Protocol between National Police Chiefs’ Council, Crown Prosecution Service, The Law Society, Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association. “This guidance is intended to assist investigators and prosecutors in deciding whether
suspects should be interviewed as part of a police investigation during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
As a whole, it’s more concerned with the health and safety of police officers, than with the rights of the individual arrested. It seems the protocol was not heeded in the cases detailed below.
Arrests and fines
Kirsty Brimelow QC, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, for The Times questioned whether the arrest and fining yesterday of a woman who refused to tell the police the purpose of her journey was lawful. British Transport Police has subsequently confirmed that the woman “was charged under the incorrect section of the Coronavirus Act 2020.”
The Independent found out the woman was not even in the courtroom when a judge found the offence proven. She was in a cell for refusing to give her name. In fact, she did not speak at all. “Having explored all options, Ms Dinou was arrested on suspicion of breaching the restrictions imposed under the Coronavirus Act 2020,” the British Transport Police said in a press release today. But official guidance issued to officers by the College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council states that “there is no power to ‘stop and account’” under the new laws.
Schedule 21 creates an offence of “failing without reasonable excuse to comply with any direction, reasonable instruction, requirement or restriction” imposed as part of the act, the Independent writes. But the law can only apply to “potentially infectious persons” and is separate to the newer Health Protection Regulations that allow police to enforce the UK lockdown.
A man charged yesterday for causing a public nuisance and contravening movement restrictions after an “unnecessary visit to Stoke Mandeville Hospital” was today jailed for 12 weeks. He was also ordered to pay £300 compensation to the NHS Trust.
“Thames Valley Police received reports that a man had posted on social media that he had visited the hospital for no reason. His actions within the hospital reportedly caused distress and disruption to hospital staff and members of the public.” It is unclear whether it was his social media post that caused distress or the actual visit. Nor does the article explain how the man was found.
He was “charged and remanded in custody yesterday with one count of causing a public nuisance and one count of contravening the requirement as to the restriction of movement during the Coronavirus emergency period following his arrest on Tuesday.” We would like to know which article of the law the last count refers to.
Even more chillingly, Charlotte Sykes and Sash Barton at Hodge Jones and Allan write: “a 13-year-old Leeds teenager was arrested for failing to comply with the new powers; according to the police officer who later tweeted about the incident, the boy refused to give his details and was subsequently taken into custody. It is worrying that a 13-year-old was arrested and detained for failing to go home when ordered by a police officer.
“This is the exact opposite of what the powers should be achieving as bringing him to the police station only increased his contact with members of the public. Regulation 8 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 provides for a person who is outside without a reasonable excuse to be taken to their house. The discretionary decision to arrest and detain someone who does not tell a police officer where they live (in order that they can be taken home) is disproportionate and goes against the grain of these Regulations.”
You may not think a vape shop is an essential shop but there is no reason for the police to act like this. According to the owner, “they turned up and said we had to shut. I asked under what law did I have to close and they didn’t know.” The owner was restrained and taken away after what seems like an unlawful arrest.
He told the Liverpool Echo: “I thought we were doing everything right, I only had one member of staff in and we only let one customer in at a time and then wiped down every time. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, whose members work for councils, and are responsible for enforcing the new rules, said: ‘There does seem to some confusion over what should be closed and what shouldn’t. Vaping shops are self-identifying as health care and staying open.”
Human rights firm Bindmans hints it will pursue judicial review action over the government’s limit on outdoor exercise, saying it disproportionately affects families with disabilities.
“Stay home” isn’t always that easy, not when police in Brighton turn a blind eye to another illegal, violent squat eviction.
Respect Human Rights
- Alternative Bristol: The extraordinary legal situation of the Coronavirus lock-down – the whole country is (in effect) under house arrest
- Wired: Police are totally confused by the UK’s coronavirus lockdown laws. The official guidance doesn’t match the text of the emergency laws. (With comments of Kevin Blowe from Netpol)
- Police must respect the rule of law in this lockdown, says Jenny Jones: “As a child growing up in the 1950’s, I was taught to trust the police, so it was a shock and with huge disappointment that I learned in adulthood than some officers really can’t be relied on.”
- Policing Law Blog: (Over)Policing the Pandemic, a detailed analysis of the Derbyshire Constabulary drone controversy.
- Joint civil society statement: States use of digital surveillance technologies to fight pandemic must respect human rights – signed by a long list of international NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Open Rights Group.
- Coronavirus lockdown rules: How do I appeal against a police fine? Not easily or quickly. Contested fines will go to magistrates’ courts that are currently closed. But if you need help then consider contacting Netpol member @haltACAB for advice.
- We can’t police our way out of the pandemic (googledocs). Discussion resource document originating in Canada with an overview of measures and incidents in the rest of the world.
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