10 April Update

POLICING

On the eve of the four day bank holiday weekend, a police officer in South Yorkshire was captured on video telling a family to leave the front lawn of their house in Ferham, Rotherham. The force subsequently tweeted this was “was well-intentioned but ill-informed and we’d like to apologise for the way it was handled.”

The second apology of the day came after Cambridgeshire Police officers tweeted that they were checking up on the “non-essential aisles” at a local supermarket. The force was obliged to clarify that “not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets. This message was sent with good intentions by an over-exuberant officer”.

The apparent belief within some police forces that they were able to make decisions about what people could buy in the few shops remaining open was fuelled further by Gloucestershire Police highlighting its own list of “non-essential” items including “paint, top soil, a sat-nav, an Easter egg, a scratch card, bamboo fencing, and stone chippings”.

The government felt it necessary to comment, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying, “We set out a list of shops which could remain open and if the shops are on that list then they are free to sell whatever they have in stock, obviously providing its legal to do so”.

In Haringey in London, there was a report of the use of police powers under Schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act to detain a person who is “potentially infectious” for a removal for screening and assessment.

In Newham, Netpol highlighted a report it had received about “confrontational policing towards people genuinely keeping to social distancing in West Ham Park in Newham”, with officers “wrongly insisting that only one hour a day exercise is allowed and only running and jogging but not skipping are permissible”.

In Hackney, there was also a report of a large group of officers disrupting (and kicking) people practising yoga in London Fields, on the basis that this was “pretending to exercise”.

In Sussex, police were described as “out bright and early filming people – who are all at least 2m apart and moving- on Hove beach”.

Britain can take an example from Oakland where tomorrow 74 miles of street will be closed for cars to permit runners/bikers/walkers to use the streets while maintain social distancing.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone says Police Scotland has invited a leading human rights lawyer to review its use of emergency powers, SkyNews reported.

Police in the north of Ireland become the latest to launch an online reporting tool allowing people to denounce their neighbours.

In Greater Manchester, a man has been arrested after biting a female police constable and punching two other officers as they enforced lockdown. He was causing a disturbance on Drake Street in Rochdale on Thursday evening, and is now in custody on suspicion of criminal damage, domestic violence assault, section 18 assault with intent to resist arrest and regulation 8 of the Health Protection Regulation 2020 (Coronavirus).

Nine prisoners have died after contracting Covid-19 and more than 100 have tested for positive. Given the “risky” prison environment, Lord Macdonald insisted that releasing low-level non-violent offenders, such as those jailed for non-payment of fines, shoplifting or minor public order [rest behind paywall].

COMMENT

The politics of Covid-19: ‘Busy’ parks and public blame. “As ministers equivocate over lockdown guidance, we’re gearing up for another weekend of public shaming. It’s a classic Conservative move,” says Siobhán McGuirk in Red Pepper, “blame the people for government failures.”

Lord Sandhurst QC & Anthony Speaight QC argue in a paper for the Society of Conservative Lawyers [pdf] that it would contribute to public support for the Government’s restrictions if steps are taken to bring them better in line with the rule of law.

LibDem MP Wendy Chamberlain writes in Metro: I used to be a police officer – now I worry about them being given more power

RESOURCES

Now online, free to view: Recording of Garden Court North Seminar on police powers and the Coronavirus Act 2020, held on the 9th April featuring Pete Weatherby Q.C., Mira Hammad, Christian Weaver and Mark George Q.C.

David Mead at the protestmatters blog discusses  the human rights implications of the ban on gatherings in Regulation 7, of the Government’s response to COVID-19.

#COVID-19: Facts and frequently asked questions for individuals and groups’ by Jude Lanchin at Bindmans.

A guide to make Freedom of Information Act requests on #COVID19: Who, where, what, by the Global Investitagive Journalists Network @GIJN.

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