25 – 27 June Update

POLICING

Ministers risk ‘considerable unrest’ during the next phase of lockdown easing if they continue ordering tough crackdowns on disorder, police commissioners have warned. Clampdown on lockdown-breaching parties ‘could provoke considerable unrest’, after the police have clashed with residents breaking up raves in Brixton and Tottenham, with people arrested and officers injured. Instead of community de-escalation as the priority, as Netpol suggested, police fuel the fear of a repeat of the London 2011 riots and reportedly had thousand riot officers and dog units on standby this weekend.

More than 200 people have been caught wild camping in the Lake District, with 20 people fined for having a party on one of the fells and others lighting fires on summits. After Lake District residents complained about damage to walls, fences and trees; tents, suitcases and clothing abandoned and rubbish left for others to clear, officials from the Lake District National Park, the National Trust, Forestry England and Cumbria county council and police spent Saturday night “educating” those breaking lockdown rules, prohibiting overnight stays and fining those who refused to pack up and go home.

Understanding it’s impossible to ban Black Lives Matter protests at this moment in time, even though gatherings of more than 30 people are forbidden under the lockdown regulations, police turn to unlawful measures to avoid trouble with public order. To facilitate a planned Black Lives Matter vigil at Keel Square in Sunderland, Northumbria Police issued a Section 14 order forbidding any other public assembly, including counter-protests, to ensure the public’s safety. This is in effect a selective ban that could only have been imposed under s14A with the consent of the Home Secretary and applied to all, David Mead, professor of protest law at the University of East Anglia, has argued. The Metropolitan Police was severely criticised for using the same public order powers against Extinction Rebellion protesters last year.

The confusion between what is guidance and what is the law continues. After ministers ignored police chiefs’ warning over the risks of lifting lockdown measures in England, tens of thousands flock to beaches causing chaotic scenes. Struggling with packed beaches in what was the hottest week of the year so far, a Bournemouth officer said, “They seem to forget the law is to remain two metres apart from people outside your household.” This is, however, government guidance rather than the law. This kind of arbitrary implementation of lockdown measures – something we have documented repeatedly since March – may explain why people now refuse to listen.

The government is refusing to repeal a “draconian” coronavirus law – despite it being used to wrongly prosecute scores of people, The Coronavirus Act has not been used lawfully in a single criminal case since it came into force on 25 March.

Despite the evidence, as discussed in earlier blog entries, Cumbria’s police chief rejects claims his officers ‘dealt disproportionately with ethnic minorities’ during the lockdown, insisting most fines for people from black and minority communities were for ‘outsiders’ (as if that makes it OK).

Stop and search has increased considerably during the lockdown; increasing by almost 50% from April 2019 to April 2020, despite there being significantly fewer people on the streets. Read more in the latest blog from Hodge Jones & Allen, civil liberty lawyers.

RESOURCES

Know Your Rights leaflets by Bristol Anarchist Black Cross have been updated to include the minor changes in lockdown regulations in Wales that came in last week.

Coronavirus lockdown eased: what you can and can’t do from 4 July, The Guardian.

22 – 24 June update

POLICING

Chief constables claim that in their hurry to publish data on lockdown fines, forces have understated how many were given to members of black and minority communities, but deny they were trying to hide a deeper problem of racism in policing across England and Wales.

Amnesty International has called on police in the north of Ireland to suspend the use of spit hoods after ‘an admission they provide no protection from Covid-19’.

A holiday homeowner has complained to the police watchdog after he said armed officers from Devon and Cornwall Police were sent to check he was complying with lockdown rules.

One area of constant confusion since the lockdown began is the difference between the criminal law rules (where not following them can lead to a criminal conviction) and the government’s guidance (which is advice but not law). Human rights barrister Adam Wagner on the latest changes.

Piers Corbyn, the anti-lockdown campaigner and brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, says he plans to fight two counts of breaching Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations at a trial scheduled for October. In successfully seeking his unconditional bail, Corbyn’s solicitor argued that no attempt had been made by the Metropolitan to enforce lockdown rules at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in central London.

SURVEILLANCE

Allowed to open from 4 July, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and churches face a minefield, privacy campaigners have warned, BigBrotherWatch amongst them, after the government instructed them to record people’s contact details in case they need to assist with test-and-trace efforts. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is “assessing the potential data protection implications of this proposed scheme and is monitoring developments”. However, no methodology is in place, and others say this is just ‘advisory’ ‘guidance’ – not the law.

The focus on data protection concerns has drawn attention away from more expansive human rights considerations, academics Marion Oswald and Jamie Grace say, pleading for robust and rolling oversight function and model of proportionality review to uphold a fair balance between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community in situations of uncertainty and crisis.

RESOURCES

Unsurprisingly for regular readers of this blog, Britain features prominently in this new Amnesty report:  Policing the Pandemic – Human rights violations in the enforcement of COVID-19 measures in Europe. Conclusion: Police enforcing COVID-19 lockdowns across Europe have disproportionately targeted ethnic minority and marginalized groups with violence, discriminatory identity checks, forced quarantines and fines.

Watch: COVID19, Protest & Law, a film about how #COVID19 legislation has been used & abused by UK police to disrupt protest, arrest campaigners & undermine #HumanRights. Read full RealMedia article here.

 

19-21 June Update

POLICING

In Glasgow, on Saturday, the police disrupted a socially-distanced Black Lives Matter protest at George Square, kettling protesters with dangerous disregard for their health, keeping them contained for several hours, before moving protesters to another square and letting them go little by little. Good thread reporting the events by video.

Warnings by police about large public gatherings over the summer solstice weekend were less focused on protests on the streets in London and other cities and more on the perennial dangers of illegal rave culture – history continues to repeat itself during the pandemic, although this time it is the coronavirus, rather than drug use, that was the main concern.

On Friday, Vice UK ran a piece suggesting Britain’s illegal coronavirus raves are impossible to police and spoke to rave organisers about social distancing regulations. One tried to justify no longer trying to enforce them by pointing to “the complete lack of consistency across the Cummings debacle and the many protests happening across the country”.

As CNN pointed out, lockdown parties are organised by and for young people in predominantly working-class cities who face the imminent prospect of another decade of recession and austerity and who “feel like a pause button has been pressed down hard” on their lives. The police have, inevitably, treated this as a public order threat rather than a health risk with warnings they would use drones and dogs, increased road patrols and intensive intelligence gathering to track down illegal gatherings. As has been common throughout the last three months, there were appeals too for the public to report suspected unlawful activities to the police.

Over the weekend West Midlands Police and Staffordshire Police made thirteen arrests and there were reports of raves on the Cheshire/Derbyshire border, Liverpool, Blackpool and Wiltshire. Avon and Somerset Police were unable to seize a sound system used for a Stokes Croft street party due to the “potential for serious disorder”.

Meanwhile, the president of the Police Superintendents’ Association told the Independent that Britain is facing a “summer of discontent”, fuelled by tensions exacerbated by “frustration” over coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and the prospect of a severe economic downturn. Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths said, “there’s a real moment in time where this, along with social injustice issues and racial discrimination, could come together to create further problems.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan faced serious questions are being asked about the use of stop-and-search by the Metropolitan Police during the -19 lockdown at the Mayor’s Question Time on Friday.

Despite his force issuing one of the highest numbers of fines, especially in the early days of the lockdown, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said the police had “risen to the unique challenges brought by the pandemic” and had been “hugely impressive”.

On Friday, the government said people with disabilities should “never face intimidation on public transport” over face mask rules, following reports that British Transport Police officers were refusing to let people through station barriers without face coverings, even if they were exempt.

One thing the police is definitely not monitoring is safety concens at the workplace. Construction workers are being sacked and then blacklisted for complaining about the lack of social distancing at Manchester Airport – 13 weeks with no pay. 

LEGAL

Democracy, protests, and Covid-19: the challenge of (and for) human rights. Christopher McCrudden in UK Constitutional Law, also on alternative forms of protest under the new normal.

Does the two-metre rule actually mean anything? “Two-metre rule is not binding and if you don’t stick to it in England, it’s not clear there would be any legal repercussions if your customers caught the virus (though it might be bad PR)” the Financial Times concluded. 

The Times reported over the weekend that the criminal justice system backlog has reached more than half a million cases with expected delays of up to five years for many trials.

SURVEILLANCE

Also in the Times: The government’s coronavirus app failure has left tracing plan in disarray. The National reported that nearly half of the UK public don’t have confidence in private outsourcing company Serco to deliver England’s coronavirus track and trace programme.

RESOURCES

Exploiting a Pandemic, report by CageUK showing how national security actors have used the corona crisis as “an opportunity to give new lease of life to the vast, sprawling architecture of counter-terror.” Cage calls for an end to “the attempted fusion of security apparatus with public healthcare”, noting how existing entanglements of security and public services (e.g. the UK Prevent duty) have “subverted and undermined the practice and spirit of public services.”

A view from Yorkshire by Stop The Scan (9 June): COVID-19 penalty functions added to police mobiles, arguing that policing technology during COVID19 is entrenching, normalising and digitalising the racial profiling and discrimination inherent in practices related to stop and search even further.

Radio Outbreak’s latest podcast: ‘BLM updates, protesters rights, police tactics and surveillance with a testimony of an arrest describing the total lack of COVID19 precautions from the cops’. 

 

 

17 – 18 June Update

POLICING

Police enforcing the coronavirus lockdown in England and Wales were almost up to seven times more likely to issue fines to black, Asian and minority ethnic people than white people. These figures published by Liberty Investigates confirm what we have been reporting since we started this blog three months ago.

Bias and lack of trust from certain communities may have played a role, as well as demographics, Dave Thompson, the chief constable of the West Midlands, told the Guardian.

‘When prosecutors start to boast that they are applying legislation correctly in 85 per cent of charging decisions, it is a fairly good indicator that something is wrong with the law,’ The Times wrote on Thursday.  A quote from Kirst Brimlow, QC made it to the headline: Coronavirus laws expose ‘downward spiral’ of justice system. She also said there is no excuse for continued wrongful charges (discussed in yesterday’s diary entry) and urged for a similar review of the issuing of fixed-penalty notices.

Reporting neighbours to the police for alleged coronavirus breaches can have terrifying consequences. In Cornwall, armed police raided a holiday let in Cornwall on an anonymous tip-off that it was open. They threatened to return even though they found no evidence of it being open.

Scottish Police Federation issued a strongly-worded statement on protesting in the midst of a global health pandemic, after another night of ‘protest and disorder’ in Glasgow on Wednesday. “Those who gather are breaking the law pure and simple”, saying there is NO exemption for gatherings for the purpose of protest (political or otherwise):

Scottish Police Federation statement

Using the virus as a reason to oppress the right to speak out against the Government’s continued flawed policing policies is an insult and an injustice, the campaign group Liberty stated earlier this week, adding that their research had confirmed these powers would harm people of colour (as we have argued here before):

Throughout the pandemic the Government has avoided scrutiny and accountability at every turn. The lockdown regulations which the police have been using to restrict protest are not only unclear – they were bought in unnecessarily using emergency powers, and have not been given any scrutiny in Parliament. This is particularly alarming because these powers could be in place indefinitely.

SURVEILLANCE

Now that UK abandons contact-tracing app for Apple and Google model, the NHS is to switch to alternative design by tech giants, Matt Hancock said in the latest government U-turn. Silkie Carlo, the director of the privacy charity Big Brother Watch, said: “This just shows what a mess the centralised data-hungry approach was. Government was wrong to waste precious time and millions of pounds of public money on a design that everyone warned was going to fail, and now we’re back at square one.”

A couple of hours after a House of Lords minister told the Green Party peer Jenny Jones, that there was ‘no need for people on the Isle of Wight to stand down’ from using the app, Isle of Wight Radio are saying we can uninstall the app.

The failed tracking app was being developed by a firm called Faculty, which was a VoteLeave AI firm and is run by a mate of Dominic Cummings. It won seven contracts in 18 months, one of which a £600,000 contract from the Home Office to track terrorist videos online.

15 – 16 June Update

POLICING

Youth worker Kusai Rahal is launching a legal challenge against a fine issued by the Metropolitan Police for breaking lockdown rules by attending the arrest of a teenager in his capacity as head of community support at the charity 4Front. His arrest was shared on a video that was widely circulated on social media. His lawyer Sarah Flanagan argues that he had a “reasonable excuse” because he was travelling for work. What gives this incident a particular resonance is that it took place on 12 April, the day that the Prime Minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings claimed driving to Barnard’s Castle to test his eyesight was a “reasonable excuse” for travelling.

Complaints that police officers are showing little concern for the safety of detainees (see also yesterday’s diary entry) have been reinforced by the footage that rapper Wretch 32, Jermaine Scott, shared of his father who was shot with a Taser inside his home by police. This happened at the height of the pandemic, but the footage has only just been shared on social media. The family were shielding because Scott cares for his 23-year-old son Shaquille, who is severely disabled with cerebral palsy. In the footage, Scott’s partner, 52, can be heard saying: “Social distancing, please don’t touch me.” She has since been charged with obstruction, which she denies.

West Yorkshire Police say stop and search operations nearly doubled in April 2020 compared to the same month last year because of the coronavirus. The proportion for Black, Asian and minority communities rose from 37.26% in April 2019 to 41.67% in April 2020. The same trend is also noticeable for May. This is quite alarming, given the fact, there are fewer people on the streets.

Meanwhile, the Police Federation’s call for a ban on all protests because on the ongoing health emergency has led to a spate of headlines attributing this to recent changes in the regulations. However, these already prevent public gatherings: as Netpol explained to Vice, the police have implemented them for smaller protests, but have been more reluctant to do so for the last fortnight’s Black Lives Matter protests.

The release of information on prosecutions under both the Coronavirus Act and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations have been hailed by the Crown Prosecution Service as evidence of successful decision-making. However, they also show that 100% of prosecutions under the draconian Schedule 21of the Coronavirus Act in May were unlawful. Nine new cases had to be stopped because there was no evidence they applied to potentially infectious people. This follows 44 cases which were thrown out in April – which were all unlawful.

At least four homeless people have been unlawfully prosecuted for breaking coronavirus lockdown laws, that made it illegal to be outside “without reasonable excuse” – which however does not apply to people who are homeless.

LEGAL

On Monday night, the government was, according to campaigners from Big Brother Watch, “demolished across all benches for dictating the lockdown and evading democratic scrutiny” in a debate on lockdown regulations. The group has collected some highlights from the House of Lords debate.

There is still little public information about Sunday’s ministerial order that face coverings are now mandatory on public transport, as we reported in our last diary entry.  Big Brother Watch says: Please remember you can still travel without a mask if you have a reasonable excuse. This includes any disability or if it would cause severe distress.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister continues to offer contradictory messages on what the government sees as important health protection measures. On Tuesday, Downing Street tweeting “you should wear a face-covering when out shopping”, but on Monday Boris Johnson was not wearing one when posing for a photo opportunity at the reopening of the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford in east London.

The Law Society Gazette has picked apart the illegality of Derbyshire Police’s use of drone footage to “send a message” about coronavirus regulations.

RESOURCES

Know Your Rights During The ‘Lockdown’ Bristol Defendants Solidarity has updated its guides in response to the latest government changes.

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.”

10 – 11 June Update

POLICING

Data released by the National Police Chiefs Council shows that a total of 15,715 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been recorded by forces in England up to 8 June for breaches of government public health regulations. In Wales, 2,282 FPNs have been issued in the same timeframe. Dyfed-Powys Police has issued more coronavirus fines – 1509 so far – than any other force in Wales and England.

The NPCC’s “Fixed penalty notices data pack – 11 June” is available here (PDF).

Police fines for lockdown breaches are, however, starting to fall. There were 523 fines in the two weeks from 26 May to 8 June – compared with 1,171 in the previous two weeks and 4,796 in the fortnight before that.

England fines to June 8

At a time when there are open challenges to the prevailing political orthodoxies of the day – not least and most recently on the policing of black communities – a Deputy Assistant Commissioner from the Metropolitan Police is claiming the coronavirus lockdown may have led more individuals to “become radicalised as they spend more time online” and because referrals to the much-criticised Prevent “counter-radicalisation” programme have dropped substantially.

Suffolk Police has responded to the report we highlighted yesterday that the coronavirus crisis could “spark widespread public disorder this summer” although, in fairness, the academic who gave this warning was probably not thinking in particular of a predominately rural policing area (or even the mean streets of Ipswich).

West Mercia Police has asked anti-racism protesters to explore “alternative’ ways of making their voices heard” because of coronavirus concerns, ahead of a ‘Black Lives Matter protest in Worcester city centre this Saturday

Train and bus operators are concerned that the new compulsory requirement for face coverings on public transport is unenforceable. British Transport Police has said it had “no powers regarding the national rail conditions of travel, which is a contract between the train operators and the passenger”. Officers could merely “engage with passengers and encourage them to comply”, it said in a statement.

RESOURCES

‘Protest, Pandemic and Proportionality’, webinar, 3pm Tuesday 16th June. Part 1 in a new series on #protestrights brought to you by our #protest law barristers from our crime & civil liberties teams at Garden Court Chambers.

“In too many countries, public health responses to the pandemic have been securitized and militarized,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, noting the role played by counter-terrorism practices in responding to the pandemic.

Policed in Covid. Friday, 12 June, 3pm Vicky Conway hosts a webinar to provide a space for different groups to reflect what the Garda Síochána Covid response has meant for their communities. Speakers from Alone, Safe Ireland, Binchy Solicitors, Policing Authority [others tbc].

8 – 9 June Update

POLICING

Offences under current emergency legislation were only one of the reasons the Metropolitan Police relied upon to arrest 86 people across the Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the weekend, although it remains unclear why a small number were detained for participating in gatherings of more than six people when there were thousands who were present. The Met’s approach contrasts with police forces elsewhere, where most took a hands-off approach, and no arrests were made.

On both Saturday and Sunday evenings, a number of protesters were kettled, which Netpol in a statement said was disproportionate and unlawful. A thread on Twitter by one of the participants on Sunday described how protesters were “trying to make an effort to social distance when possible” but that “this was simply not possible within the kettle and efforts had to be abandoned”.

Barristers Rebecca Penfold and Aparna Rao have argued that limiting the right to freedom of assembly and associations is an unavoidable side-effect of the pandemic and that it is unlikely that the “right to protest” would triumph over temporary health restrictions.

In the north of Ireland, Amnesty International has accused the Legislative Assembly of making an “unacceptable, last-minute” amendment to coronavirus regulations to allow the police to fine protestors at Black Lives Matters rallies. Nevertheless, a unionist Member of the assembly has claimed the credibility of lockdown regulations has been undermined by police inaction at the protests, despite complaints that the police had fined people attending demonstrations in Belfast and Derry and the assistant chief constable seeking to have the organisers of the Belfast rally prosecuted.

One academic has warned that Britain must be braced for widespread riots this summer, as poorer people and areas are hit harder by the coronavirus fallout.

Adam Elliott-Cooper discussing the huge Black Lives Matter protests all over the UK on Sky News: “If Met police chiefs are so concerned about social distancing, then why were stop and searches at a nine-year high last month – spreading the virus for the sake of small quantities of cannabis.”

Police in Hampshire have admitted sex workers are at an increased risk of violence during the lockdown because of a fear of prosecution for breaching social distancing rules.

In Scotland, South Ayrshire Council has started using police to track down shielding people who have not responded to checks.

Academics in Leeds have obtained a huge grant to work with the Metropolitan Police Durham and Lancashire Police to collate information and data about the levels and types of crimes following the outbreak of coronavirus, when officers were otherwise busy issuing large numbers of fines for failing to comply with lockdown measures. These “crimes” do not appear to form part of the study.

In Hackney, the local Mayor has echoed a warning also made by Netpol in March and said that “police anticipate that as the lockdown eases, racial attacks will increase”.

LEGAL

Latest on the Lockdown Challenge in the UK courts. On 26 May, a judicial review was launched in the High Court to challenge the lawfulness of the Lockdown Regulations. This UK Human Rights blog post discusses the “somewhat half-baked new quarantine scheme.”

SURVEILLANCE

How not to use tech in a pandemic – Frederike Kaltheuner is putting together a timeline of the UK’s (pretty disastrous) tech response.

It took Foxglove and openDemocracy two months to force the UK government to release the contracts for the NHS ‘data deal’ with Faculty, Palantir, Amazon, Microsoft & Google. First findings in openDemocracy. “Significantly, the contracts reveal that the Dominic Cummings-linked firm Faculty is being paid more than £1m to provide AI services for the NHS. The documents also show that terms of that deal were changed after initial demands for transparency were made by Foxglove under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Taking on the Tech Titans: Reclaiming our Data Commons TNI Webinar Wednesday 10 June 3pm UK time. #COVID19 has delivered record profits for Big Tech, while states are rolling out new apps with almost no consideration of privacy or human rights. What opportunities are available in this time of a pandemic to advance digital justice?

RESOURCES

The Lockdown Amendments: Everything you Need to Know, Guide by Big Brother Watch. Plus the Policing Brief on the new travel regulations.

 

5 – 7 June Update

POLICING

Large Black Live Matters demonstrations around the country, challenging the lockdown rules’ ban on large gatherings. There was a significant difference in approach by the police in different areas, with on Avon and Somerset Police deciding not to intervene when the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into the harbour, explained by officer A Bennett here, and on the other the Metropolitan police charging protesters on Whitehall with horses on Saturday night.

The Metropolitan Police has been criticised for tactics which cause or escalate tensions and put people’s lives in danger. On both Saturday and Sunday night, the police kettled the remaining protesters for hours in the cold and invoked antisocial behaviour to demand personal details as a condition for leaving the containment. Kettling protesters (and legal observers) in a smaller and smaller space during a pandemic where government advice is for people to maintain socially distancing, is very concerning and Netpol has suggested it was motivated as much by the desire to gather intelligence.

Under lockdown regulations, it remains unlawful to gather in groups of more than six except in a limited number of scenarios that do not include protest. But on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “People have a right to protest peacefully while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police.” The barrister Adam Wagner has suggested Johnson’s comments make it virtually impossible for the police to fine or prosecute protesters for gathering without a “reasonable excuse” under regulation 9.

In the north of Ireland, PSNI officers were warning Black Lives Matter protest stewards and organisers they are “aiding and abetting a breach” of coronavirus regulations and taking people’s names before the protest had even started. Some anti-racism rallies planned for Saturday were called off after police “held talks with” (applied pressure on) organisers.

The CPS intends to review evidence into the death of Belly Mujinga after all, a week after British Transport Police said it was taking no action. The decision comes in “recognition of wider public interest” after calls for justice at Black Lives Matters events in response to the killing of George Floyd. Mujinga was a railway worker who died in April after she had been spat at London’s Victoria Station by a man who was infected with the Coronavirus.

Solicitor Mike Schwarz at Hodge Jones and Allen has announced the launch of a citizens’ bid for the prosecution of Dominic Cummings for putting lives at risk.

More detail on the new regulations on travelling, active from Monday 8 June in England. Wales, Scotland and Nothern Ireland have yet to say if police will enforce the rules and how.

SURVEILLANCE

Serco wins Covid-19 test-and-trace contract despite £1m fine. Serco has been fined millions by the Serious Fraud Office, profits from prisons & immigration detention and housing for asylum seekers despite failings, and on top of that the Health Minister is a former Serco lobbyist.

COMMENT

Sophie Hemery: Racist Policing Accelerated During the Pandemic. Mounting Protests Could See It Get Even Worse.

RESOURCES

MI5 whistleblower and rights campaigner Annie Machon will discuss the emergency power grab by governments and big tech in a virtual event, 17th June, 8pm.

3 – 4 June Update

POLICING

Solicitors from Hodge Jones and Allen have written to the Metropolitan Police, on behalf of Netpol, London Black Live Matters, UK Student Climate Network and Extinction Rebellion, to express their concerns about the policing of protests under the coronavirus regulations. The letter argues that in particular, the use of Regulation 7 fails to provide adequate protection to the right to free speech and the right to protest (article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

David Mead, Professor of UK Human Rights Law at the University of East Anglia, discussed the effects of new regulations on protest in great detail in a series of blogposts, and also submitted evidence on it to the Joint Committe on Human Rights. In short, he wonders why a BBQ of six friends on the riverside would be allowed, while a similar group of political activists cannot hold a twenty-minute vigil 2m apart on the steps of a Town Hall to mark the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “That seems an indefensible distinction, one that does not properly recognise the value of free speech and peaceful assembly, nor protect it.”

On Wednesday it was reported that police turned up at the home of a Black campaigner who has shared details of a BlackLivesMatter protest on social media. Officers barged their way in and questioned the individual, was shielding and therefore unable to attend the protest, for 20 mins on details of organisers and attendees.

The latest coronavirus rules, from Monday 1 June, are wide-ranging and complicated. The Guardian published a guide on what is allowed in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Bristol CopWatch has also updated their ‘Know Your Rights during Lockdown’ leaflets to reflect the recent changes.

In Wales, the control on the border between England and Wales remains as tight as ever. Dyfed-Powys Police has turned away 1000 cars in two days.

The new regulations on travelling require the transportation services bringing people into Britain to tell travellers to go into a 14-day quarantine or risk a fine and prosecution, and inform the government of their address – and there is nother complicated list of exceptions to digest. Adam Wagner also points at the serious powers for the police to enforce this, though the Met Police have already said they won’t be getting involved (£).

LEGAL

The Good Law Project (Rook Irwin & Sweeny) wrote to Secretary of State for Health raising concerns over “unconstitutional” use of emergency powers to introduce new criminal lockdown laws without Parliamentary scrutiny or debate.

A minister just declared what the law will be, including policing activity inside our homes and forcing us to wear face masks. As Adam Wagner points out this is law-making by ministerial fiat.

SURVEILLANCE

NHS test-and-trace system ‘not fully operational until September‘. The Guardian reveals that the chief operating officer told staff programme would be imperfect at launch.

Police forces are drawing up plans to do their own contact tracing, because they don’t trust the national system to keep sensitive information safe. They are afraid sharing details could smoke out undercover officers for instance. Kent police have already told officers not to give details of work contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

What is contact tracing and what does it mean to me? Bindmans Lawyers explains. 

How Digital Contact Tracing for COVID-19 Could Worsen Inequality, Amos Toh, Human Rights Watch

COMMENT

We can’t breathe What connects the most brazen forms of state violence against black people and the struggles of BAME coronavirus patients is systemic racism. Gary Younge for The New Statesman.

Didier Bigo: Covid-19 tracking apps, or: how to deal with a pandemic most unsuccessfully. Contact tracing apps add “another political problem, that of an enlarged surveillance apparatus, without solving the underlying one: the lack of an effective public health strategy”

RESOURCES

Big Brother Watch has done another excellent report Emergency Powers and Civil Liberties, May 2020, using the Policing The Corona State blog as a resource. The Report discusses the lockdown, the emergency laws, the Coronavirus Act, contract tracing, and more.

Webinar Mon, June 8: “Good” or “Bad” the Covid 19 Tracker & Surveillance Capitalism. Should we worry about the “State” and others knowing more & more about us? Orgnised by Shout Back Discussion club, 8:00 PM.