6 – 16 August Update

POLICING

The continued focus of public order policing of the coronavirus pandemic in Britain over the last fortnight has been on ‘raves’ or illegal gatherings. Police forces are increasing patrols of potential hotspots and have carried out raids of unlicensed events in Birmingham, the Sussex coast, Manchester, Cheshire and Accrington.

Police in Manchester have warned against A level parties, saying fixed penalty notices could be issued, which in the circumstances of huge numbers of students having their results downgraded by a disastrous class-biased algorithm, does seem somewhat tactless.

During the heatwave that saw temperatures break records, police were warning of coronavirus ‘super-spreader’ events. Police in Scotland reportedly increased patrols of beaches and issued antisocial behaviour warnings. In West Yorkshire, the warnings have already begun for the August Bank Holiday weekend and Devon and Cornwall Police have warned holidaymakers that both counties are now full.

The prospects of a second wave of infections are looming and Bedfordshire Police is already urging the public to stay at home as much as possible after the government listed Bedford as an ‘area of concern’ following the rise in coronavirus numbers in the town. In nearby Northamptonshire, Chief Constable Nick Adderley – who in April made a number of colourful remarks threatening roadblocks and searches of shopping trolleys to combat breaches of lockdown rules – has said that it is “odds-on” that Northampton will return to a lockdown in the next six months and is “teetering on the edge of that.”

The Times has reported that British Transport Police spoke to 28,964 people for travelling without a face covering between 13 and 25 July, with 1,605 told to leave the rail network and 33 penalty notices issued.

Instead of blanket measures involving increased policing seen in other cities where there has been an increase in new cases of infection, Liverpool tried a different approach. When a surge of cases was noticed in one ward, the local council implemented an “enhanced outbreak control action plan” on just a few dozen streets with volunteers knocking on doors telling people to get a test if they have symptoms and to remind them of the rules. The council was able to do this because of new powers given to local authorities to impose targeted restrictions at a hyper-localised level. See this thread by Jane Merrick.

New coronavirus restrictions requiring face coverings in more locations, as usual published the day before they came into force 8th August. The Muslim Council has put out guidance on face coverings for mosques, given these changes.

SURVEILLANCE

The government paid AI firm Faculty £400k to spy on social media posts over three months of the pandemic to identify political “risks” and “trends” using machine learning. Big Brother Watch discovered the unredacted version of the contract with Faculty, the company linked to Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave.

RESOURCES

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives, edited by Linnet Taylor et al. Edited volume, free to download: ‘The essays provide a global perspective on the implications of these developments for justice: they make it possible to compare how the intersection of state and corporate power—and the way that power is targeted and exercised—confronts, and invites resistance from, civil society in countries worldwide.’ Chapter on the UK: Pandemics, power, and publics: trends in post-crisis health technology, Silvia Mollicchi, Aidan Peppin, Cansu Safak, and Tom Walker

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