7 May Update

POLICING

Friday is a bank holiday to mark VE Day but street parties have obviously been cancelled. The police are warning people to make sure that whatever alternative lockdown celebrations are planned, social distancing rules are maintained. Meanwhile, some forces (notably Dorset and North Yorkshire) are also reiterating the message that their counties are closed to outsiders.

An Avon & Somerset Police Community Support Officer has publicly criticised a cyclist who was injured while taking daily exercise for cycling too far and for taking up “valuable emergency service time”. The PCSO said injuries “could have been prevented by the cyclists staying at home”.

Wiltshire Police has indicated it has issued more coronavirus fines in the last week.

According to Doughty Street Chambers, there have been (at least) five confirmed cases in which people have been prosecuted and convicted for offences that either don’t exist, don’t apply to the country they were in, or simply could not apply to them. Lawyers warn that at a time when the justice system is largely operating in secret due to the lockdown restrictions, the wrongful convictions that the public is aware of have only come to light as a result of police publicising their apparent “victories” and through diligent press reporting. 

By law, the Health Secretary must review the necessity of the “lockdown” restrictions every 21 days. The second review was due on 7 May but the public has heard nothing. Big Brother Watch has criticised the government for failing in its duty to publish the review, saying “Whatever your view on ending or extending the lockdown, having liberties lifted by ministerial rule, without transparency, is a bad place for any democracy to be.”

SURVEILLANCE

Privacy International has published its analysis of the new NHS contact tracing app.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report, “Human Rights and the Government’s Response to Covid-19: Digital Contact Tracing” (PDF), which says that the government’s plans for a contact tracing app require additional safeguards and “having a carefully considered legislative basis for this app would better engender public trust and participation”. The Chair of the Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said, “Assurances from Ministers about privacy are not enough. The Government has given assurances about protection of privacy so they should have no objection to those assurances being enshrined in law”.

The Open Rights Group Scotland wrote an open letter to the Scottish government asking for more info about the data protection and human rights safeguards for the Track, Trace, Isolate, Support digital tool tackling COVID-19. They also ask that data is not passed to NHSX. It was co-signed by, Amnesty and the Human Rights Consortium, academics, members of civil society and others.

Experts in human rights law, surveillance and computer science from the University of Essex have set out the actions required before a contact-tracing app can be deployed in the UK.

The European Trade Union Institute has published Covid-19 contact-tracing apps: how to prevent privacy from becoming the next victim

COMMENT

Does the pandemic require derogation from human rights treaties? Niall Coghlan summarises the state practice during this crisis, mapping the derogations to date from European, American and international human rights systems, and draws some tentative conclusions.

In Disobedience, Protest, and the Pandemic: Climate Change and Citizen Action under Conditions of Social Distancing, Graeme Hayes looks at the challenges facing social movements who engage in civil disobedience and how they may need to rethink they tactics as the pandemic creates new social norms.

From Fanon to ventilators, by Arun Kundnani. To neoliberal states, the pandemic is a racialized security threat and a market opportunity. Our fight is for the right to breathe — in every sense. (Adapted version of a presentation in Transnational Institute’s webinar States of Control, the Dark Side of Pandamic Politics.)

RESOURCES

Kirsty Brimelow QC and Pippa Woodrow at Doughty Street Chambers have written a 6-step Guide to Coronavirus Offences for the public, police and lawyers dealing with allegations and enforcement of the Health Protection Regulations and Coronavirus Act 2020. It outlines basic questions to be asked when facing a criminal charge or a fixed penalty notice under this legislation and sets out the various offences, time limits, potential defences, powers of enforcement and penalties that apply.

The learning disability charity Enable Scotland has created an image that disabled people can save on their phones setting out their rights, which their family members or carers can show if challenged by police officers when out exercising. The charity has identified such encounters with officers as “a major source of anxiety” for the people it works with. The images are available here.

COVID State Watch published a long list of activists all over the world monitoring and challenging abuses by police and misuse of emergency powers during the pandemic.

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