4 May Update

POLICING

The Times has reported that senior police officers have warned the government that relaxing restrictions as Britain emerges from lockdown will make them “impossible to police” and requiring officers to carry out further enforcement that risks damaging their relationship with the public.

This follows rumours that the government plans to increase the current level of fines for breaches of coronavirus rules from £30 to £100, with a new maximum of £3,200 for repeat offenders. One senior officer commented, “As we move towards lifting restrictions, the worst possible thing would be more policing of the lockdown… I want us to be doing less.”

For the first time, Parliament was given the opportunity to debate the lockdown regulations but had only two hours to do so. The debate is published on Hansard here.

Minister for Health Edward Argar called it “a very important debate on regulations that, while absolutely necessary to help beat COVID-19, are having a profound effect on people’s lives and businesses” but in total, apart from the official opposition response, only14 MPs spoke: ten Conservatives, two Liberal Democrats, one from Plaid Cymru and the Democratic Unionist Party and none from Labour or the Green Party.

Liberty produced a briefing for Members of Parliament, which is available here.

Protestors standing many metres apart outside of Westminster Magistrates’
Court for the latest extradition hearing for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, were threatened with arrest under lockdown regulations if they did not return home. After the hearing was finished, a journalist – despite presenting his credentials and citing NPCC regulations that reporters are considered key workers – was allowed exactly one minute to do an interview.

Protests have been rare, but there was also one today at the HS2 site in Euston, which was attended by police but no arrests were made.

The BBC reported that 13 arrests had been made at after raiding two lockdown parties in Liverpool. The person we reported on a few days ago who had been reported to Norfolk Police for wearing a medieval plague doctors outfit turned out to be a teenage boy. He has been given “words of advice”.

In North Yorkshire, police issued 61 fines over the weekend specifically to people not taking advice to stay away from the county.

Cumbria Police has apologised for yet another “ill-judged” tweet that said people should not buy plants or compost.

SURVEILLANCE

The government is piloting a new contact-tracing app on the Isle of Wight this week for managing the coronavirus outbreak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed, despite concerns its centralised setup carries privacy risks and will reduce uptake.

The app has been developed by NHSX, the technology unit of the National Health Service, with support from the National Cyber Security Centre, the defensive operational division of intelligence gatherers at GCHQ. It insists that individual privacy will be protected.

However, Amnesty International’s UK director Kate Allen has said, “We’re extremely concerned that the Government may be planning to route private data through a central database, opening the door to pervasive state surveillance and privacy infringement, with potentially discriminatory effects.”

The Telegraph has reported that because the contact tracing app under development by the NHS is incompatible with the Google and Apple system used in other countries, Britons may find they are unable to travel abroad – with obvious implications for anyone wanting to cross the British border between the north and south of Ireland.

Contact-tracing apps are not a solution to the COVID-19 crisis, argue Ashkan Soltani, Ryan Calo, and Carl Bergstrom for Brookings

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