20 April Update

POLICING

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths president of the Police Superintendents’ Association warned today that police must prepare for a “more volatile and agitated society” after the end of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

Perhaps appropriately, therefore, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) of the House of Commons and the House of Lords met to examine the enforcement of the lockdown and the confusion between law and guidance (can be watched here). This was its first remote hearing.

Minister for Justice Robert Buckland was asked whether he was worried about the way the police are enforcing the new powers in the Coronavirus Act, whether he was worried about human rights being compromised and how high a priority this is for the government.

Buckland responded, “The question of the balance between rights and proportionality has been at the heart of our deliberations.”

Committee chair Harriett Harman asked: “What role are you taking in monitoring the implementation of the Coronavirus Act?” Buckland’s answer was again very unspecific: “[The] Key line of accountability is the Government Legal Department reporting to the Attorney General on how measures being implemented. My role is as political antennae of government. Rather than my acting as an early warning system, individual Ministers must take responsibility.”

Karen Buck MP said, “We are using the criminal law here to enforce the lockdown effectively. The consequences of that is profound. It is incredibly important that we get things right as people will have a criminal record if found guilty under this legislation.” The Secretary of State conceded that “we are getting examples of failure by the investigating authority to apply the law/principle properly. But we have the independent judiciary/court system which deals with the issues and makes the necessary rulings”.

Buckland also warned police not to “name and shame” people who flout lockdown laws unless they’ve been convicted. “If in doubt, don’t,” he told the  Committee, but also said that police sharing large group photos is okay to show general “poor behaviour”.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in London, there was a report of “a whole squadron” of Metropolitan Police pulling over vehicles on Tower Bridge but targetting only cars driven by black men. The Met Contact Centre replied on Twitter that her observations was passed to the local police officer. Others responded with similar observations, but there was the usual backlash of denial and distraction from supporters of the police on Twitter.

The Lancashire Police officer captured on camera over the weekend threatening to arrest a man on a fabricated offence has been suspended and the force has decided the matter is serious enough to make a voluntary referral to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

Lancashire Police Statement 20 April 2020

COMMENT

Inside the COVID-19 State: Protecting Public Health Through Law Enforcement, Dr Lambros Fatsis, Criminology at the University of Brighton in The BSC Blog.

Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations interviewed Suresh Grover & Dorothea Jones from The MonitoringGroup (TMG), asking: are race hate crimes now the collateral damage of COVID19?

We need Big Brother to beat this virus, argues former Downing Street speechwriter Clare Foges in the Times (paywall). Foges previously argued (wrongly) back in March that the public is “too selfish to stop coronavirus spreading” and that this required the government to take more draconian steps.

PRISONS

The Minister of Justice has confirmed that there have been 13 confirmed dead, with 298 prisoners tested positive for the coronavirus across 67 jails. 

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