As the Home Office starts to share the government’s new messages, the College of Policing has issued new guidance [PDF] for officers on the latest changes to the lockdown regulations starting today in England (similar guidance for Wales [PDF] was issued on Monday). The guidelines urge officers to only enforce what is written in the law, adding that “Government guidance is not enforceable; for example, two-metre distancing, avoiding public transport, or the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces”. However, both Scotland and Wales continue to enforce social distancing in businesses.
In an interview for Sky News, the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council Martin Hewitt reiterated that “it is not a policing role to enforce the 2m social distancing.” There has been widespread coverage of how the new rules mean the police’s “hands are tied” over lockdown fines, as if restricting the ability of the police to arbitrarily issue fixed penalty notices whenever they want is anything other than a positive development.
The latest stop and search figures from the Metropolitan Police show a surge in the use of these police powers during the lockdown. Across London, there were 30,608 uses of stop and search in April, compared to 23,787 in March – a rise of 22%. Two-thirds of these stops have been for drugs searches. The number of stops per 100,00 has increased from 7.2 to 9.3 for Black people (see the Met’s Stop and Search Dashboard for the full figures).
One keyworker at a secondary school, its Inclusion Manager and Safeguarding lead, has described how he was racially profiled for a drug search by the Met’s Territorial Support Group.
Seeming to confirm earlier reports that the Home Office has told police to focus attention from now on onto large gatherings (see reports from Devon & Cornwall and West Mercia), West Yorkshire Police has outlined plans to respond if planned anti-lockdown events go ahead in Leeds this weekend, as have South Yorkshire Police and Leicestershire Police.
One of the few remaining protest camps to have remained during the lockdown, by opponents of HS2, has been evicted from a site in west London. Campaigners have complained about the police’s refusal to intervene during aggressive evictions by the National Eviction Team, a company that specialises in evicting environmental protesters and squatters.
What has been described as a “Lincolnshire lockdown rebel” has been fined six times and his fines are now more than £1,920, but Lincolnshire Police are powerless to arrest him unless he fails to pay the fines. They say they are now looking at extremely questionable “alternative ways of dealing with him”, including the use of powers around public nuisance and section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 for causing alarm and distress.
Members of Parliament are starting to question the legality of how decisions are made by the government about the lockdown. Lord Falconer tweeted on Wednesday: “Yesterday government by executive decree passed regulations to make the changes to the lockdown. Those regulations could have been debated and voted on by the House of Commons, but the government decided they were too urgent. They weren’t. They could have been debated yesterday. Careful about democracy.”
Covid-19 Apps Pose Serious Human Rights Risks – Human Rights Watch has published recommendations for governments considering technology in addressing the pandemic.
Robots to patrol European resorts to enforce social distancing, The Times (£) reports. ‘As well as mobile apps to track or trace infections, European Commission proposals for tourism envisage “artificial intelligence and robotics [to] underpin public health measures”.’
Secret NHS documents seen by WIRED reveal new details about how its contact tracing app might work in the future. Potential future features include health statuses, location data, and data “donation”. Scoop by Matt Brugess. The documents, hosted in Google Drive, were inadvertently left open for anyone with a link to view. So, we are expected to trust people who can’t get the permissions right on google docs with a COVID surveillance and tracking app? Thread on why this matters.
Police State, Race and Public Health in Time of Covid – recording of a webinar organised on 12 May by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. The National Security Police State always uses crisis like this to expand oppression, to expand surveillance, accumulate new weapons, push boundaries and justify its violence. In this part we discuss race disguised as a biological category versus a political one; “immunity passports” and public health surveillance.
26 May, 7pm (BST) James Harkin speaks to Richard Norton Taylor about the development of the national security state, the pace of its surveillance apparatus. New online talk series by the Centre of Investigave Journalism.
Video seminar next week on the human right to life and Covid-19, by Brick Court Chambers with @BindmansLLP on 19th May at 1pm chaired by @paulebowen QC
The last entry of this blog got picked up by @COVIDStateWatch: Responses to the coronavirus pandemic demonstrate how governments increasingly view public health through the prism of national security and law enforcement.
It is the final chance to add your name to Netpol’s letter calling on police to stop – before the lockdown ends – labelling campaigning as “domestic extremism” (as government departments already have done).