12 – 14 June Update

POLICING

The weekend has been dominated by what was essentially a white supremacist riot in central London, largely involving what one charity has described as football firms fighting with the police after a Black Lives Matter protest was postponed. There were similar confrontations involving far-right groups in Glasgow after a protest organised there was also called off by its organisers, Glasgow Youth Art Collective, because of “the police targeting activists before we were able to gather”.

After the previous weekend’s protests by Black Lives Matter campaigners, the Police Federation is now urging the Home Secretary to implement an outright ban all protests while the country is under threat of the coronavirus.

Ultimately the current health regulations already enable the police to prevent public gatherings. Netpol commented that it would appear the Federation is seeking political support for a more stringent use of these powers and that “Priti Patel is the kind of Home Secretary to grant this”.

Evidence from the protests that have taken place so far indicates the police has no policy on safety issues for protecting arrestees from coronavirus. This account of someone who was arrested on a Black Lives Matter protest said that “throughout my time in custody: any requests or concerns stated regarding the pandemic would be treated as a trouble-making technique”.

The Prime Minister continues to offer little but confusion and uncertainty on the issue of protesting during the pandemic. A week ago he said it was a “right” for people to protest, but on Friday he tweeted: “The only responsible course of action is to stay away from these protests.” The barrister Adam Wagner has suggested that it is, in reality, “impossible for an individual, or a police officer, to know whether – using social distancing and peacefully – going out to a protest, is a “reasonable excuse“ under the regulations”.

The latest lockdown law amendments were published on Friday. Adam Wagner, explaining the changes, said that “as is this government’s style, no drafts to debate, no prior votes, all by emergency, seat of the pants legislating”.

In light of the changes, Kirsty Brimelow QC and Pippa Woodrow at Doughty Street Chambers have amended their Guide to Corona offences in England (pdf).

The new regulation banning travelling on public transport without a “face covering” unless you have a “reasonable excuse” was published on Sunday afternoon, less than a day before coming into force. There is a potential £100 fine for passengers refusing to cover their mouth and nose. It was considered so urgent that Grant Shapps, Secretary for Transport, has used emergency powers to avoid parliamentary debate or a vote for another 28 days – even though these powers have been anticipated for weeks. Here is a summary of what you can and cannot do from today.

LEGAL

Nazir Afzal, a former senior prosecutor who lost his brother to coronavirus, has joined a campaign for a new investigation into Dominic Cummings’ alleged breaches of lockdown rules. He warned that if Boris Johnson’s chief advisor failed to face consequences, the public would lose confidence in the criminal justice system.

SURVEILLANCE

AI after the pandemic A reflection on necropolitical neural networks and the need to develop ‘knowing-caring’. By Dan McQuillan: “We are clearly not all in this pandemic together.”

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