8 April Update

POLICING

Today a YouGov public opinion survey [pdf] on the policing of the lockdown commissioned by Crest Advisory (a strategy and communications company set up by a former special adviser to Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron) showed broad support for the police’s role, but also a number of areas of concern after just two weeks of implementing emergency powers.

The survey, of 1646 adults, said that 42% fully supported the approach taken by the police, while a further 32% generally supported it but felt in some cases they had gone too far. A majority (54%) were uncomfortable with naming and shaming people on social media and with police analysing social media accounts to identify those in breach of the lockdown (48%). A surprisingly high proportion – 42% – were uncomfortable with both asking people to report others who breach the rules and with facial recognition in public places to identify people breaching the lockdown, whilst 43% were uncomfortable with the police using drones to photograph people making unnecessary journeys

A summary by CrestAdvisory said, “People are, broadly speaking, comfortable with face-to-face police enforcement up to and including tactics such as roadblocks which are themselves highly unusual. However, public support starts to fall when people are asked about more remote, less human tactics such as the use of social media to name and shame those flouting social distancing rules, or new technology such as drones to photograph people”.

As Netpol commented, however, “We’d expect support for many policing measures at this stage of the lockdown but two weeks on, 32% saying in some cases the police have gone too far, 43% uncomfortable with the use of drones and 42% with reporting neighbours seems like a strategic failure”.

The Police Federation, meanwhile, has suggested that disproportionate decisions about lockdown rules were attempts to interpret ‘stark’ messages from politicians rather than the new legislation itself, which is of course unlawful.

Cambridgeshire Police became the latest force to introduce an online reporting tool to enable residents to denounce their neighbours for alleged breaches of the lockdown.

A week after the National Police Chiefs Council reissued its guidelines, there have been further reports on the police interpreting, in the harshest manner, rules on driving to take exercise.

At the Old Bailey in London, former YPG volunteer Daniel Burke was unable to attend his latest court hearing because he is self-isolating while on remand. Netpol argued that he “poses no threat whatsoever to anyone in Britain and should be released immediately”.

IMMIGRATION

It was reported today that a confirmed coronavirus case at Brook House detention centre near Gatwick airport involved a person who was detained on 2nd April, long after deportation flights were suspended, which is probably unlawful. It was also long after the virus was widespread and likely to expose staff and detainees.

Yesterday, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) said that it had secured 23 requests for bail with no refusals, adding, “emptying detention centres one individual at a time shouldn’t be necessary. Everyone should be released urgently!”

OPINION

Antonia Layard, Professor of Law at the University of Bristol Law School, argues in Parks in the time of Covid-19 that “media coverage has undoubtedly been influential in decisions not to close parks, for there are only limited differences between public and private property” and says  “the call for “people’s parks” resonates loudly at the moment”.

An important ongoing thread by Wolfie Christl looks at data harvesting companies who claim to help to fight the virus by providing data on the movements of millions. This overview shows how location data secretly gathered from smartphone apps is potentially flawed, biased, untrustworthy or even fraudulent.

Another thread doubting tracing by mobile phones from another point of view, by Ryan Calo: ‘I just don’t see contact tracing apps that are voluntary, self-reported, and self-help working, especially given asymptomatic spread. Which, in fairness, I bet wasn’t as clear when these ideas were hatched.’

In a webinar on Corona tracing apps by Alexandra Geese and Ulf Buermeyer – currently legal IT at Berlin Department of Justice – say the mandatory installation of an app to not consider a greater violation than compelling people to wear a mask.

RESOURCES

As we move our work and social lives online it is more important than ever that the human right to peaceful assembly applies in online spaces as well as physical. The Centre of  Governance and Human Rights made available a research pack on the right of peaceful assembly online. It highlights the threats to it, “including denials of access, the chilling effects resulting from new and exacerbated forms of surveillance and discrimination, and interference obscured by digital mediation.”

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