28 – 29 May Update

Dominic Cummings may have broken lockdown rules when he made a 50-mile journey to Barnard Castle, an investigation by Durham Police has concluded, adding that it would not be taking any further action. It’s worth remembering that Durham Police has issued a number of fines to others for travelling during the lockdown.

On the question of whether the regulations are “one rule for some and not for others”, the Metropolitan Police has been forced to give six of its own officers a dressing down over the coronavirus rules, after photos appeared to show them gathering in a house for a drink.

Questioned by Huffington Post UK reporter Nadine Writes over the disproportionate number of lockdown fines issued to Britain’s black and minority communities, who asked: “If Dominic Cummings were black, it is statistically more likely he would have been stopped by police while out with his family,” Health Secretary Matt Hannock said that “it’s vital that the rules, where there is mandation (sic), are policed without fear or favour and fairly and equally according to the evidence.”

As this blog has repeatedly demonstrated, the implementation of lockdown powers has seldom been applied fairly or equally and there is growing evidence of racial profiling and targeting.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) have told ministers that most lockdown issues are now a “personal and moral responsibility” rather than a policing issue, The Times (£) wrote. The government has accepted that police had “retreated” to engaging, explaining and encouraging, now the lockdown has become “unenforceable”, senior officers said.

West Yorkshire Police has told a charity to stop feeding homeless people during the lockdown in Leeds city centre. A police officer came to the home of one organiser and told her that rough sleepers are “all in accommodation and they’re being fed in hostels”, which she has argued is simply not true. Police claimed they were responding to “numerous complaints [that] were made about ‘unofficial feeds’ where social distancing was not being carried out”, although two weeks ago, police were told they have no powers to enforce social distancing in England. The campaigning homelessness charity Streets Kitchen commented that “with the right PPE and understanding of the issues, we have dropped NO outreaches, indeed vastly increased them as there are so little ‘homeless’ services left”.

The NPCC produced new statistics on lockdown fines. Up to 25 May, North Yorkshire Police (pop. 800,000) had issued almost the same number of lockdown fines as the Metropolitan Police (pop. 8 million). However, the data from between 12 and 25 May shows a significant reduction in fines since measures were eased in England, although 17,000 have been issued.

Fines by force in England to 25 May

Katrina Ffrench, Chief Executive of StopWatch, has explained in an interview why she is calling for a review of every fine that has been issued.

SURVEILLANCE

Baroness Dido Harding, part of Board of The Jockey Club, which “courageously” decided to go ahead with Cheltenham Festival in March, is now running the UK Government’s Covid19UK Track & Trace programme. She was also CEO of TalkTalk when hackers stole the personal details of 157,000 customers and was fined by the Information Commissioner for insufficient security.

The Department of Health has said that all information shared with the NHS Test and Trace service is confidential and will not be passed on to the police. However, emergency powers do provide the option to enforce self-isolation requirements with fines.

RESOURCES

In “Policing the Pandemic” (MedAct), Aiyan Maharasingam looks into the statistics showing that BAME communities are disproportionately affected by state violence, and how the pandemic is worsening pre-existing inequalities. “Enforcing social distancing through policing and criminalisation, without understanding the inequalities that shape people’s ability to self-isolate or distance, will lead to further discrimination.”

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