5-6 May Update

POLICING

There is another bank holiday weekend approaching and police in Wales and North Yorkshire are gearing up for further action to restrict movements. The Guardian has reported claims that the lockdown in the Lake District is ‘fraying at the edges’.

Lancashire Police have cancelled coronavirus fines handed to Shazia Zahieer and Tayyba Arif a week into the lockdown. They had driven to Preston Docks for exercise. They were represented by Patrick Ormerod from Bindmans. The firm is calling on Lancashire Police to review all fines issued under the emergency Coronavirus Regulations.

Police broke up a protest citing the COVID19 regulations at a direct action against HS2 in Euston, which following a similar intervention against supporters of Julian Assange protesting at Westminster Magistrates Court on 4 May does suggest any form of outdoor protest is currently impossible, even if like the HS2 protesters, social distancing and face masks are used to try to minimise health risks (and construction work is still permitted to continue). Frustratingly, the police also tried to use anti-social behaviour powers under section 50 of the Police Reform Act to demand HS2 protesters give their names and address, even though protest is clearly not anti-social behaviour.

The Prime Minister latest statement on erasing lockdown regulations seemed confused about the law his own government introduced, as the Daily Telegraph reported on their front page that Johnson is going to scrap the once-a-day limit on exercising and tell people they can take “unlimited” exercise either on their own or with members of their household”. In England, the law does not limit people to one exercise session a day outside their home (while in Wales it does) and exercise with members of the same household is already allowed too. 

Cumbria Police has apologised for yet another “ill-judged” tweet that said people should not buy plants or compost. As always, there is nothing in the health regulations that prevent such activities.

The Times claims (£) that the retirement of the chief of Derbyshire police is linked to criticism over implementing coronavirus regulations after his force used drones to shame walkers and attracted controversy after officers poured black dye in a lagoon to deter visitors.

Netpol has repeatedly warned that as the lockdown begins to ease, there is a risk that public fears drive demands for the police to hunt down potentially sick people and that this may target communities seen as a “risk” because of outright xenophobia, especially against the Chinese community. The evidence for this xenophobia is, unfortunately, highlighted in new data released by police forces to Sky News, which indicates the rate of hate crimes against Chinese people between January and March was nearly three times that of the previous two years.

SURVEILLANCE

Matthew Ryder QC and Edward Craven from Matrix Chambers, Gayatri Sarathy of Blackstone Chambers and solicitor Ravi Naik have been instructed by Open Society Foundation to provide a detailed legal opinion on smartphone contact tracing and other data-driven proposals that are part of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Their opinion is available here.

Matrix has also produced a podcast that addresses the human rights implications of how governments are increasingly turning to technology.

The Open Rights Group has written to Matt Hancock and NHSX to demand immediate confirmation that they will conduct a full and adequate Data Protection Impact Assessment, consult with the ICO and publish the results.

Amnesty International UK has said that the public deserves answers and transparency over contact-tracing app privacy concerns,

Sky News has set out to explain how the NHS contact tracing app will work.

Apple and Google have announced a ban on the use of location data in mobile apps that utilize a new contact tracing system developed jointly by the two companies – one that is not the preferred option for the British government. It sees location data as central to identifying coronavirus hotspots and mapping viral transmission.

The Register argues that Britain finds itself almost alone in opting for such a centralised contact-tracing app, which it says probably won’t work well and may be illegal.

COMMENT

The virus is the police. Writing for Discover Society, James Trafford places the enforcement of the lockdown in the context of post-colonial policing, making a more fundamental argument – beyond the mere abuse of powers. He warns against whole-society policing that includes all kind of methods of surveillance and self-policing creating suspect communities.

RESOURCES

In this video, Adam Elliott Cooper of The Monitoring Group outlines the key legal powers that have been handed to police under Covid-19 lockdown conditions. The video also gives advice on how to stay safe if you encounter the police while outside.

 

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