30 April – 1 May Update

Policing

Checking people’s reasons for being on the streets, South Yorkshire Police went as far as warning people for “saunter in jeans as exercise“, a “visit the shop for egg custard” and a “trip to the cash machine for 20,- to use in the morning”. The online backlash this caused forced the police to apologise next day and take down the post.

Police close down family string quartet playing classical music for their neighbours claiming they are breaking coronavirus lockdown rules. Rafael Todes, 53, had been performing with his family outside his property in Bayswater, London, for six weeks. This week police officers arrived to his street and said the music may encourage residents to gather on road. The musical family had been playing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No4 in the front garden when stopped. The piece was written by Shostakovich during the time he was scared that he would be arrested by Stalin’s men. (article includes video of the incident)

Police in Brent found someone sleeping in a park, and used a picture of him to go with their ‘Please stay at home’ message on social media. They didn’t disguise his face, and were critised for shaming someone who may have been homeless or collapsed – he certainly was not sunning himself.

A junior doctor was fined £60 for exercising on the 29th. Police refused to identify themselves by name or badge number. ‘Repeatedly stepped within 2m of me and threatened to “seize my phone”.’

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) say the police have received 194,000 calls “snitching” on people alleged to have broken the coronavirus lockdown, and say the draconian measures are getting harder to for people to observe the longer they go on. Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, has said he would not snitch on his neighbours: “No, I don’t think I would do. But I’m not going to pass judgement on other people and what they’re choosing to do. It’s become apparent to me that the lockdown is harder for different people that others.”

Police issue almost 9000 fines for alleged coronavirus lockdown breaches in England. The numbers are increasing: in the two weeks to 13 April, which included the long Easter weekend, 4,152 fines were issued in England alone, and in the next fortnight there were 4,725 fines.

NPCC figures show a postcode lottery of enforcement, The Guardian wrote. Thames Valley police recorded the highest number of fines, 649, while the biggest force, the Met in London, issued 634. Warwickshire issued 22 fines, the fewest of any force. Dorset issued 116 but next door in Devon and Cornwall there were 510 fines. Rather than a lottery, these numbers show a huge difference in the approach of enforcing the lockdown.

Don’t forget meanwhile that “the vast majority of people in the UK are obeying the lockdown rules – not because they have been ordered to by the government but because they don’t want to catch or spread the virus”.

Lancashire Police withdrew Coronavirus fixed penalty notices (FPNs) that were wrongly issued under the lockdown to Shazia Zahieer and Tayyba Arif (represented by Bindmans). On 30 March 2020, left the house for a short drive to the Riverside Docks in Preston, so they could take a stroll and get some fresh air whilst adhering to ‘social distancing’ guidelines. At the docks, they were approached by police officers and, despite explaining why they were there, fined under the Health Protection Regulations 2020. However, the Regulations include a long, non-exhaustive list of what are reasonable excuses for a person to leave the place where they are living, including the need “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”.

The Lancashire police that had already gained notoriety for issuing more FPNs than any other in the first three weeks of lockdown, and for having to apologise after one of its officers threatened to make up evidence against a member of the public, has now confirmed it will not be taking further enforcement action against Bindmans’ clients.

If you have received a fine and are unhappy about the reasons why it was issued – make sure you appeal! The London Campaign against Police and State Violence offers support to people in South London with challenging such fines. Email: lcapsv.AT.gmail.com. Also @StopWatchUK Legal Group – made up of lawyers and academics – provide legal advice.

Recently local couriers were issued with £50 fines by North Yorkshire Police for carrying out deliveries by bicycle, in the city centre. These fines can be an entire day’s wage. Couriers had been told by both council and police staff that they were allowed to cycle in the otherwise restricted area during lockdown because enforcement had been relaxed.

On the 18th April, IWGB member Ethan Bradley was mishandled and threatened with arrest by a PSCO who wasn’t wearing PPE, potentially exposing Ethan, and the public, to the virus. After a public backlash, a letter of support from York Central MP Rachel Maskell and extensive media coverage, North Yorkshire Police and the City of York Council have resorted to claiming restrictions were never lifted and shifting responsibility onto one another. As this is completely unacceptable, they have now set up a petition to demand york police & council to rescind the fines and give them city centre access.

Isle of Man

BigBrotherWatch zoomed in on the situation on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency. The local government has introduced a flurry of secondary legislation in response to COVID-19, under the Emergency Powers Act 1936. Recent reports by the BBC, the Guardian and Isle of Man Today paint an alarming picture of excessive policing and enforcement responses to breaches of these regulations, including the drastic step of imprisonment.

As of April 24, the Isle police have arrested over 40 people in a two-week period for breaching COVID-19 regulations. At least four people have been jailed. The examples clearly show that vulnerable members of the community experience the brunt of enhanced police powers.

Review of the lockdown

Adam Wagner continues his discussion of the recent, non-debated and unscrutinised changes to the lockdown regulations (which were themselves non-debated and unscrutinised), stating: ‘It is unsatisfactory to have a criminal law which (1) depends entirely on intention of a person for being outside their house (2) penalises having the wrong intention (3) which can change in an instant, (4) penalties depend on what police officer “considers” a person is thinking.’ Which does remind Wagener of judicial criticisms of protest injunctions which rely entirely on a person’s intention, which can change, to define a potentially criminal act (contempt). 

On Monday, Parliament has just 2 hours to debate the Lockdown Regulations for the first time. Big Brother Watch sent a copy of their briefing to every MP – question is, will they they speak in the debate?

Surveillance

Essential thread on #COVID19, by the Institute of Race Relations. Trevor Phillips and Richard Webber’s coding technology will be used for the inquiry on the disproportionate impact of #coronavirus on black and brown communities. This same coding is used by police forces to profile individuals & communities.

More than 170 scientists and researchers working in the UK in the fields of information security and privacy made a joint statement about the contact tracing app developed by NHSX in the UK:

Resources

Netpol’s coordinator @copwatcher has been interviewed by @MElmaazi on recent changes to coronavirus regulations, the policing of the pandemic in Britain and fears about what happens next when the immediate crisis starts to recede.

The recording of TNI’s webinar of last Wednesday’s States of Control: Dark side of pandemic politics is now publicly available and shareable.

SOCIOLOGIST OF CRISIS: INSIDE THE COVID-19 STATE: PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH THROUGH LAW ENFORCEMENT

The rise of technologically-mediated police contact: the potential consequences of ‘socially-distanced policing’. By Dr Helen Wells, Dr Liz Aston, Dr Megan O’Neill and Professor Ben Bradford in BSC Policing Network, Connecting Policing Researchers In The UK And Beyond.
And more interesting articles such as Police discretion and the coronavirus pandemic, by Dr. Liz Turner and Dr. Mike Rowe.

One thought on “30 April – 1 May Update

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