Yet another sign that the government is unable to abandon its public order approach to embrace a public health crisis one instead, is that the police will get access to the details of members of the public in England who have been told to self-isolate through NHS Test and Trace.
The BBC reported that this will happen on a “case-by-case basis”, according to a ‘memorandum of understanding’ agreed between the Department of Health and Social Care and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The Guardian fears that it may deter people from getting tested for Covid-19 if forces get data.
However, the news on the police getting data from NHS contact tracing should not be confused with data from the app. The app only stores data locally, and cannot be accessed by the government or police. Furthermore, a notification from the app does not trigger legal duty to self-isolate, just a moral duty. You cannot receive a fine or face a prosecution for disobeying it. A long thread from Adam Wagner discussing this issue.
It has subsequently emerged that the police in Scotland will also have access to personal details from the Test and Protect scheme, despite assurances that data would only be used to trace contacts.
As London moves unto tier 2 of the government’s new three-tier classification of the level of localised infections, resulting in new restrictions, the Metropolitan Police has announced that its officers are “stepping up” their response to target people allegedly breaching coronavirus regulations, with additional patrols in the evenings near bars and pubs.
Last week, the Metropolitan Police threatened the Tudor Rose, a longstanding and popular venue in Southall, with a £10,000 fine for hosting what a senior officer called a ‘dangerous and foolish’ wedding.
In a sign of the confusion over the rules for venues, however, another venue that had a gathering broken up by police has complained that it had not broken rules on wedding parties because it had organised a “celebratory dinner” weeks after a wedding ceremony had taken place, stating that this was no different to people sitting in groups in a restaurant. This was also an event where the majority of the people were Asian.
During September, West Yorkshire Police reportedly had 130 fines of between £440 and £990 that “have been proven in people’s absence at court”. Only 21 people actually pleaded guilty to breaching rules.
On Merseyside, a tier-3 area, armed police were sent to issue a £1000 fine to a gym owner after he refused to shut his business. A number of gyms in Liverpool, facing similar police enforcement, are threatening legal action.
Confusingly, however, a gathering of hundreds in Liverpool city centre billed as a “mental health awareness rally” but in fact, a protest about the lockdown was deemed “lawful” by Merseyside Police.
In North Yorkshire, the police plan to launch a squad of “Covid cars” to provide a rapid response to public tip-offs about breaches of coronavirus regulations.
Individuals are still being unlawfully prosecuted under extreme lockdown laws and the Coronavirus Act. Even worse, as Tristan Kirk found out for the Evening Standard, Londoners accused of breaking the lockdown rules are being prosecuted behind closed doors and under a veil of secrecy.
Police access to test-and-trace data is another blow to dwindling public trust in the government, Ian Hamilton, The Independent, 18 October 2020.
The College of Policing claims that the approach to coronavirus enforcement was ‘well received by commentators’ and was apparently based on science – using that roaring ‘success story’, stop and search powers, as its starting point.
Michael Maggs has updated Wikipedia pages with the latest. Three new sets of COVID-19 Tier Regulations (SI 1103-5) that came into force in England on the 16th, including changes – such as Greater London ans some other regions moved to Tier2, before the rules even came into force – adding “They appear wilfully complicated!”
Barrister Adam Wagner made a video to fight the misinformation on how the legal duty to self-isolate works, what relevance of the NHS app has and how data can be used for prosecution.