1 – 12 October Update

POLICING

On 2 October it was reported that the Metropolitan Police had launched an investigation into Scottish National Party MP Margaret Ferrier, over alleged breaches of coronavirus rules that included travelling by train journey between London and Glasgow after receiving a positive Covid-19 test. Ten days on, she continues to resist calls to resign as an MP.

The Independent reported that, just as in mid-May, the police in parts of Britain are creating a “postcode lottery” by handing out coronavirus fines far more frequently in some areas than others.

Dorset Police fined five people after they held a party in Bournemouth attended by around 100 people. Warwickshire Police also plan to issue fines to people who attended two parties in Leamington Spa. Greater Manchester Police had a particularly busy weekend, handing out 85 fines across a region currently under specific local lockdown rules. In Cardiff, which also has a local lockdown, police were reported to have attended a party at an Airbnb property that had more than 30 people present.

In Dunstable, Bedfordshire Police are investigating a funeral attended by “between 400 to 500 people”, which would breach guidance stating only 30 mourners are allowed.

In Newcastle, the police say they have been called out to more than 500 reported incidents in the past two weeks.

A takeaway owner has been fined £1,000 by police for serving a single customer food four minutes after the 10pm curfew. Barrister Kirsty Brimelow QC commented that this type of draconian action by police “batters any remaining trust” that the public may have and that people can ill afford fines during this time.

Essex Police has fined 32 students at the University of Essex in Colchester for breaking coronavirus rules. Police are now reportedly patrolling the campus. There are similar patrols in Cambridge. In Nottingham, 10 students were fined after celebrating their negative test results with house parties in the city, which has the highest number of cases in England. They also now face the threat of disciplinary action by their universities.

In South Yorkshire, police have drawn up a guide to protesting while coronavirus restrictions are in place. They did so to “help cut through the complexities of attending large-scale events without breaking the law”, but emphasise the “threat of tough action” for anyone who fails to comply with police instructions, saying, “where protestors are not compliant, we may need to take action in the immediacy or film the situation in order to take action at a later date”.

In Kettering, the town’s CCTV network of cameras is used to monitor whether coronavirus laws are being complied and whether shoppers and bus passengers are wearing face masks.

Kent is also talking about placing artificial intelligence cameras which can be used to “monitor” social distancing in thirteen towns.

BigBrotherWatch found – as confirmed here – that the excessive contact tracing law has not been practised on the parliamentary estate – yet small businesses face fines for non-compliance, while older and low-income people who don’t use the NHS Covid-19 app are refused entry to premises.

LEGAL

Before everything will change again this week with the new Three-Tier System, some updates of the rules that were launched over the past ten days.

Latest changes (24 and 28 September) on opening hours and small gatherings, at the very useful wiki by Michael Maggs.

You can now get a £10,000 fine for breaking self-isolation rules. Barrister Adam Wagner explains the rules (which are complicated and onerous) in his Better Human podcast.

Wagner has also argued that Parliament should be given a prior vote on the new three-tier system and where it is initially to apply because the government said that significant measures would from now on be debated and voted in parliament. It seems unlikely this will happen.

And, the last time the government promised to simplify coronavirus regulations was when the Prime Minister said “the rule of 6” would simplify the rules on gatherings. The rule on gatherings was increased from 850 words to over 2,000 overnight…

RESOURCES

The joint Netpol and Undercover Research Group article “Villains of the Pandemic”, on the policing of coronavirus restrictions, is published in the current issue of the Socialist Lawyer magazine and now up on this blog 

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