23 April Update

POLICING

With no parliamentary scrutiny, the government has changed existing lockdown regulations to create a new offence of “being outside” your home, as well as leaving it, without a reasonable excuse – even if you had a perfectly good reason to go out in the first place.

The amended regulations are available here and an explanatory note here. It now says “during the emergency period, no person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

Home Office lawyers are, according to the legal commentator David Allen Green, “passing off a significant extension of the criminal law as a “clarification” – and there is no good reason for that extension not to have parliamentary approval when parliament is now in session”. Green looks in more detail on the significance of the extension of the restriction on movement in a post on his Law and Policy Blog.

Barrister Adam Wagner has summarised the changes in this Twitter thread. As Big Brother Watch wryly noted, if the amended regulations had been in place during the “the police festival on Westminster Bridge” last week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick may have been liable for a fine for going outside with a reasonable excuse then remaining outside for an entirely different purpose.

Netpol, which has been receiving stories and personal testimony on the impact of policing of lockdown regulations, was given permission to share a report that police in north London interrogating a carer for taking an autistic, non-verbal young person to the local park. The carer said that officers had previously refused to leave the young person alone until she got up and left, ignoring revised guidance for people with disabilities.

Meanwhile, in York, a widely shared video shows a North Yorkshire Police officer threatening a Deliveroo courier with arrest if he did not give his details. As Lochlinn Parker, the head of civil liberties at ITN Solicitors noted, there are few police powers that legally require a person to hand over their details and the Coronavirus Act did not grant new stop and search powers.

However Harvey Redgrave, the chief executive of the think tank that has consistently claimed broad public support for the policing of the restrictions on movement – despite a third of respondents to its regular surveys saying the police have gone too far – has insisted that “It’s all too easy to criticise the policing of the lockdown”.

SURVEILLANCE

Redgrave is a senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, which this week has been arguing a major increase in state surveillance is a price worth paying to beat Covid-19. It argues that “the price of [an] escape route is an unprecedented increase in digital surveillance”. Among the series of recommendations the think tank’s report explores are “cross-referencing” data from healthcare systems and private companies in “real-time” and sharing anonymised patient data.

COMMENT

What happens as we move away from ‘stay-at-home’ policies but stop a larger second wave of infection? David Murukami Wood says that the answer isn’t surveillance & restriction but increasing people’s right to the city.

Daniel Weinstock also says ‘stay at home’ cannot be the solution. It exacerbates inequality, and in any case is probably only achievable given a massive uptake in surveillance and coercion by the state, and snitching“.

In the Better Human podcast (episode 23) – Coronavirus and human rights 28 days later – barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nichola Higgins and academics Aoife Nolan and Judith Bueno De Mesquita discuss the International dimension of the crisis, the healthcare response and the lockdown.

RESOURCES

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition: Police State, Community Health, and Contact Tracing in Time of COVID, watch online event here. The Coalition has a zine as well. They just had a bit of a victory: The Los Angeles Police Department is Dumping A Controversial Predictive Policing Tool because of the coronavirus pandemic. PredPol is one of the oldest and most controversial predictive policing companies.

FORTHCOMING

Coronavirus and Human Rights: Policing, Surveillance and Detention in a Pandemic: on 12 May, the Human Rights Law Association is holding an online event with Doughty Street Chamber’s Kirsty Brimelow, Chris Buttler of Matrix Chambers and Hannah Couchman from Liberty. It starts at 4pm. Eventbrite tickets.

Next Trans National Institute webinar will examine authoritarian and repressive state responses to #COVID19. With UN Special Rapporteur on Protecting Human Rights Fionnuala Ni Aolain, author/researcher Arun Kundnani and Maria Paz Canales of the Digital Rights campaign. Registration and more info here.

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