7 April Update

POLICING

The Joint Committee on Human Rights of both Houses of Parliament has asked the Metropolitan Police for the guidance issued to Borough Commanders on their role in parks and open spaces in London. In a letter from the committee’s chair, Harriet Harman, the committee says “we have seen police tape preventing the use of park benches and police using surveillance to identify people who are breaching the guidance not to drive to beauty spots”.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, gave a statement saying that people who refuse to leave public spaces will be forced to.

As one local resident remarked of Victoria Park in east London, which remains closed, “the pavements and towpaths around it are busy with people, and kids playing on the road. Saw people arguing with the police about it and police said they agree it should be open. Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of child poverty in the country”.

Meanwhile, there were reports today that after encouraging people to report their neighbours for potential breaches of the emergency legislation, the police in Derbyshire are now receiving phone calls every five minutes

Police in the West Midlands has fined a father £480 because his son kept leaving the family home. They have warned that “if the youth goes out again without good reason and again associates with others the fine will be doubled and could reach £960.”

Police in Gloucestershire have targeted shoppers at a retail park, saying that “plant pots, plants and paint at this time are not essential”, although the stores selling them remain open.

A man who stole four face masks from King’s College Hospital in Lambeth has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison today. At any other time, this level of sentencing would seem wholly unprecedented, but the CPS told the court that “although the monetary value of the items that were stolen was extremely small, the potential negative impact on, and implications for, the hospital, its staff and patients was profound to say the least, given their current use during this pandemic”.

A police union wants all officers issued with spit hoods because, it says, of incidents since the start of the lockdown. Netpol has responded, warning that “if spit hoods are issued to all officers, expect their use to disproportionately target people from racialised communities and children as young as 13”.

Confusion reigns in the government with Boris Johnson hospitalised. Dominic Raab’s “evasive and equivocal answers” tonight on when they will review lockdown includes a promise to review after three weeks, which is by Monday 13 April. Raab appears not to know the law requires it by Thursday 16 April.

Opinion

COVID-19: Do civil liberties matter in a public health emergency? asks Christina Ashibogu of Bindmans Solicitors at The Justice Gap

With living space, gardens and local area dictating our day-to-day happiness, the lockdown has laid bare Britain’s class divide, argues Lynsey Hanley

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has written about Freedom of Information and the pandemic

Resources

Melbourne Activist Legal Support and the Police Accountability Project in Australia – have put together this tracking project COVID-19 Policing in Australia.

And of course there is the German #CoronaTagebuch diary (and inspiration for our project) monitoring #CoronaPolizei, by CILIP.

David Anderson QC in a long Twitter thread summarises the various viewpoints in the debate on the question ‘Can we be forced to stay at home?‘ 

UK Administrative Justice Institute has built a repository of blogs, opinion pieces, and news summaries on the theme of Covid-19 and how this pandemic affects administrative justice.

6 April Update

Policing

Stay Home graffiti in Swansea
Unofficial “Stay Home” message, Swansea

Eastbourne beach
Eastbourne beach, Sunday 5th April 2020

Weston-super-mare beach
Weston-super-mare beach, Sunday 5th April 2020

It is now two weeks since Boris Johnson announced Britain’s lockdown. Despite numerous and strong indications that the government’s efforts to persuade people to stay at home over an unseasonably warm weekend has been a rare policy success, Health Minister Matt Hancock still appears to be preparing the public for the possibility of further, much stricter rules on physical distancing.

Whilst much of the focus remained on people taking exercise in parks and open spaces, in Scotland the police issued a warning to the nation’s own chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, for visiting her second home in Fife during the lockdown. Calderwood, who had played a prominent role in the Scottish government’s messaging on the need to stay home, subsequently resigned from her role.

Elsewhere in Scotland, police went to the allotments at Inverleth park in the north of Edinburgh and, according to Shiela Dillon, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme, “threatened the allotment holders (all v widely spaced!)—told them they could only work there 30 mins a day!’”

At the other end of Britain, Kent Police became the latest force to introduce an online reporting tool for so the county’s residents can denounce their neighbours for alleged breaches of lockdown measures.

In a series of tweets, he journalist Michael Segalov recounted an incident in Finsbury Park in north London where he attempted to film (from a safe distance) police officers making an arrest. He says officers became aggressive, ignored physical distancing rules and claimed he was not authorised to film them. He was also threatened with a fine.

Despite the criticism documented on this blog of officers giving confused and contradictory interpretations of the lockdown regulations, the Metropolitan Police continues to insist that everything is working well.

After a number of imprisonments for spitting at police officers, a man in Lincolnshire is the first reported prosecution for breathing in an officer’s face. He has now been jailed for three months.

So, 62 fines have imposed by four police forces (Derbyshire, North Yorkshire. West Yorkshire, Bedfordshire) in past ten days for breaches under COVID-19 emergency restrictions, according to Simon Israel of Channel 4 News. Meanwhile, Chief Superintendents Association tells HASC police absenteeism in the COVID-19 crisis is around 13% – that’s 16000 officers – in England & Wales.

Opinion

Can we trust the police to apply common sense in using their new Covid-19 powers? asks Joseph Morgan of Bindmans Solicitors.

Francis Hoar, a barrister at Field Court Chambers, argues in the Telegraph that “Police across the country are wielding powers they do not have – with vanishingly little public scrutiny” [paywall]

Coronavirus is the new terrorism,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who fears that a sweeping expansion of draconian powers could become the virus’s enduring legacy. “It’s the latest pretext for rights violations that I fear will persist long after the crisis ends.”

Infectious criminalisation: new waves of ‘coronavirus’ criminalisation and zemiology, a blog post by Avi Boulki from the Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC). If the state measured ‘harm’ rather than ‘crime’, it would not be so blind to the negative effects it has on vulnerable groups when it decides to enact wide-sweeping legislative changes that criminalise some groups and not others.

Resources

Richard Hermer QC, Phillippa Kaufamnn QC and Murray Hunt of Matrix Chambers discuss Public Emergencies and the rule of law in the context of Covid19.

Blog by Patrica Tuitt: “Like all legislative texts, the #CoronavirusAct2020 does not simply confer powers on some and impose obligations on others; it also constructs a narrative about why the society on which it operates is in need of further ordering”.

5 April Update

Policing

Evidence that the majority of the public were yesterday complying with regulations on restricting movement has not prevented the continuing warnings that tougher rules are on the way.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested the possibility of an outdoor exercise ban after people were seen sunbathing in parks.

There has been widespread frustration over the decision to close Brockwell Park, a 126-acre public space in south London, from tomorrow.

Lambeth Council said in a tweet that this was because “over 3000 people spent today in Brockwell Park, many of them sunbathing or in large groups. This is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the actions of a minority now means that, following police advice, Brockwell Park will be closed tomorrow”.

If this number of people were present in the park, they would have had 170 square metres each to maintain physical distancing rules.

In any event, government guidelines on access to green spaces do not prevent people going to parks: they instead say, “gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this”.

If there’s anyone out there still arguing that the government’s advice is ‘perfectly clear’, here is the government at 13.38 saying ‘by all means still go to the park’, and then the government a little less than two hours later saying ‘GOING TO THE PARK WILL KILL PEOPLE’:

In response to coverage by Sky News about whether people were generally obeying the social distancing advice, Netpol highlighted what it called a “frightening prospect” that one officer in the news item was “making a wholly subjective medical judgment – refusing to believe a man sitting alone has sciatica and is in pain” and soon was “likely to decide whether to detain people who “may be infected” by the coronavirus”.

Outside London, Gloucestershire Police were ridiculed for “gallivanting” around parks on quad bikes in search of people flouting the government’s lockdown rules.

There is also evidence that evictions of squatters have continued despite a government moratorium, with the full support and cooperation of Sussex and Metropolitan police officers in attendance.

Opinion
Resources

Policing the pandemic. a Canadian initiative – Interactive map tracking charges and violations related to COVID-19, by Alex McClelland and other graduate students in Ontario with a history of working on HIV/AIDS, public health, drugs and surveillance issues. (h/t Aziz Choudry)

COVID-19: Emergency Measures Tracker. Put together by a law firm, the tracker closely monitoring updates from governments across Canada as they respond to the pandemic.

4 April Update

Policing

At what would have been the start of the school Easter break and with temperatures at their highest in 2020, the police were sounding the alarm at the prospect of tens of thousands of people ignoring the warnings to stay home in order to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

In Lincolnshire, the police went as far as declaring that the east coast was “closed”.

In London, the Metropolitan Police Federation had started to demand that parents were fined if their offspring are caught ignoring lockdown guidance. So much for “engage, explain, encourage”. Some of the other usual suspects amongst retired officers turned media commentators were pushing the ‘ignorant public’ line again too.

However, despite these apocalyptic warnings, it appears as though, overwhelmingly, the public is listening to government advice.

This has not stopped Avon & Somerset Police from becoming the latest force to launch an online service for people to report individuals and businesses breaching government guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Neither did it stop Dyfed Powys Police from putting up signs informing Pembrokeshire residents that, contrary to the updated College of Policing guidance, they face fines for driving to exercise and that vehicle details will be recorded for possible future arrests.

In south London, a police van was spotted driving around a largely empty park blaring out the instruction, “no sunbathing… exercise only”.

RESOURCES

“Policing the pandemic: “security” for whom?” by Iida Käyhkö and Laura Schack in ROAR magazine argues that the human tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic must not be permitted to become a pretext for the expansion of state powers that brutalise vulnerable communities

The Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School has shared a recording of their first COVID19 Advancing Justice event, on states of emergency and government powers in and after the pandemic, with guest speakers including Fionnuala Ni Aolain (UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism), Isabel Linzer (Freedom House), and Yaqiu Wang (Human Rights Watch); moderated by Ryan Goodman (NYU/Just Security).

To halt spread of COVID-19, democracies and dictatorships alike are expanding the use of surveillance technologies—a measure that could have repercussions long after the virus is contained. Read how authoritarian regimes use tools of digital repression. Article in Foreign Affairs (h/t @MartinBroek)

For Briarpatch, Fitsum Areguy  interviewed Desmond Cole about his new book The Skin We’re In on systemic inequality in Canada. “He dedicates an entire chapter to community policing, raising a number of questions: What information are police collecting through these programs? Who are they collecting information about? How long is this information kept? And why?”

Drawing on previous crises, Cole argues that “as society restructures in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, laws designed to punish those who are ‘endangering public health’ will land heavily on marginalized communities.”

The police have never kept Black, Indigenous, and poor people safe, and that remains true in these Covidian times. We must be wary of increasing police powers during the crisis, lest the police embed themselves even deeper in our communities under the guise of ‘community policing’ after the dust settles.”

3 April Update

POLICING
Today, Greater Manchester Police announced it was launching an online webpage for people to report anyone breaking lockdown rules.  In response, Netpol said, “we need to talk (at a safe distance) to people in our communities, not denounce and criminalise them. Our neighbours are not the enemy!”
Police Scotland has confirmed that so far issued, its officers have issued 144 fines during the first week of the lockdown
Police in Eastbourne has authorised the use of dispersal powers in the town centre “following pockets of disorder reported”. It’s unclear whether this is related specifically to alleged lockdown movement violations.

Although most protests can now no longer taking place, the protection camp at Crackley Wood in Warwickshire, on the route of the construction of the HS2 rail link, has remained open and for nine days, protesters have been occupied trees in the ancient woodlands that HS2 contractors plan to cut down.

Campaigners from the environmental direct action group Reclaim The Power today highlighted how a journalist from Channel 4 News had been ordered off-site by police officers using the new coronavirus emergency legislation. This is in spite of the National Police Chiefs Council issuing guidelines making it clear that journalists are key workers and “there is a public interest in keeping the population informed”.

COMMENTARY

Kevin Blowe from Netpol, writing for The Canary, argues that it seems inevitable the government is starting to ask itself the question: what happens when we finally emerge from a crisis that has fundamentally challenged how our society is currently structured?

Netpol warns this is why now, when our civil rights may seem so much less important than protecting public health, campaigners must start to think about the police labelling challenges to the status quo as “domestic extremism”.

Jude Sutherland of Human Rights Watch and András Kádár of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee spoke to Marina Strauß of DW News about the way European governments are taking unprecedented peacetime measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but question whether democracies in Europe strong enough to go back to normal once the crisis is over.

2 April Update

After a number of days where there have been repeated concerns about the implementation of emergency powers, the police’s own lawyers have advised them that they are wrongly applying the lockdown regulations. A guide produced by barristers at 5 Essex Court chambers pointed out that the rules do not restrict outside exercise to only once a day or prevent driving to a quiet place to exercise.

Interesting as well is the newly drawn up Interview Protocol between National Police Chiefs’ Council, Crown Prosecution Service, The Law Society, Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association. “This guidance is intended to assist investigators and prosecutors in deciding whether
suspects should be interviewed as part of a police investigation during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

As a whole, it’s more concerned with the health and safety of police officers, than with the rights of the individual arrested. It seems the protocol was not heeded in the cases detailed below.

Arrests and fines

Kirsty Brimelow QC, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, for The Times questioned whether the arrest and fining yesterday of a woman who refused to tell the police the purpose of her journey was lawful. British Transport Police has subsequently confirmed that the woman “was charged under the incorrect section of the Coronavirus Act 2020.”

The Independent found out the woman was not even in the courtroom when a judge found the offence proven. She was in a cell for refusing to give her name. In fact, she did not speak at all. “Having explored all options, Ms Dinou was arrested on suspicion of breaching the restrictions imposed under the Coronavirus Act 2020,” the British Transport Police said in a press release today. But official guidance issued to officers by the College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council states that “there is no power to ‘stop and account’” under the new laws.

Schedule 21 creates an offence of “failing without reasonable excuse to comply with any direction, reasonable instruction, requirement or restriction” imposed as part of the act, the Independent writes. But the law can only apply to “potentially infectious persons” and is separate to the newer Health Protection Regulations that allow police to enforce the UK lockdown.

A man charged yesterday for causing a public nuisance and contravening movement restrictions after an “unnecessary visit to Stoke Mandeville Hospital” was today jailed for 12 weeks. He was also ordered to pay £300 compensation to the NHS Trust.

“Thames Valley Police received reports that a man had posted on social media that he had visited the hospital for no reason. His actions within the hospital reportedly caused distress and disruption to hospital staff and members of the public.” It is unclear whether it was his social media post that caused distress or the actual visit. Nor does the article explain how the man was found.

He was “charged and remanded in custody yesterday with one count of causing a public nuisance and one count of contravening the requirement as to the restriction of movement during the Coronavirus emergency period following his arrest on Tuesday.” We would like to know which article of the law the last count refers to.

Even more chillingly, Charlotte Sykes and Sash Barton at Hodge Jones and Allan write: “a 13-year-old Leeds teenager was arrested for failing to comply with the new powers; according to the police officer who later tweeted about the incident, the boy refused to give his details and was subsequently taken into custody. It is worrying that a 13-year-old was arrested and detained for failing to go home when ordered by a police officer.

“This is the exact opposite of what the powers should be achieving as bringing him to the police station only increased his contact with members of the public. Regulation 8 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 provides for a person who is outside without a reasonable excuse to be taken to their house. The discretionary decision to arrest and detain someone who does not tell a police officer where they live (in order that they can be taken home) is disproportionate and goes against the grain of these Regulations.”

You may not think a vape shop is an essential shop but there is no reason for the police to act like this. According to the owner, “they turned up and said we had to shut. I asked under what law did I have to close and they didn’t know.” The owner was restrained and taken away after what seems like an unlawful arrest.

owner of vape shop restrained and arrested

He told the Liverpool Echo: “I thought we were doing everything right, I only had one member of staff in and we only let one customer in at a time and then wiped down every time. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, whose members work for councils, and are responsible for enforcing the new rules, said: ‘There does seem to some confusion over what should be closed and what shouldn’t. Vaping shops are self-identifying as health care and staying open.”

Legal steps

Human rights firm Bindmans hints it will pursue judicial review action over the government’s limit on outdoor exercise, saying it disproportionately affects families with disabilities.

“Stay home” isn’t always that easy, not when police in Brighton turn a blind eye to another illegal, violent squat eviction.

Respect Human Rights
Resources

1 April Update

POLICING

Public pressure has forced what is, at least, a partial retreat from the enthusiasm of a number of police forces for interpreting government guidance on what a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home as if this was written into law. This led to the setting up of roadblocks, stopping and questioning people and arbitrary decisions about whether exercise or shopping is essential or not that we have seen over the last few days.

A new briefing by the National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing, on the scope of emergency police powers, was published yesterday is available here. This is the slide that provides some clarification on the reasons for needing to leave home while restrictions on movement remain in place:

NPCC CoP Guidance On Movement Restrictions

The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Andy Cooke, has insisted that this is “not the time to be criticising the Police for a small number of misinterpretations of the legislation and advice”. In response, Netpol has commented saying that without facing criticism, “there’s every likelihood the police would have allowed the “misinterpretations” to continue. Forcing public institutions to account for their actions is why public scrutiny exists”

As a result of public criticism over the use of emergency powers, Cheshire Police say they are now reviewing the cases of six people summonsed to court over alleged breaches of the legislation in Warrington.

However, police have continued to warn that the crackdown will continue across Lancashire

The Press Association has asked police forces in England and Wales how many fines have been issued and how many arrests made since the new regulations were introduced. Of the 43 forces contacted, around a quarter said they had not issued any fines or made any arrests so far. A similar amount refused to provide details.

Police in Lancashire has so far issued 123 fixed penalty notices to people breaking the government’s new rules, the largest recorded number in the country.

However, a woman arrested by British Transport Police at Newcastle Central station for refusing to explain to officers her reason for essential travel has been fined £660 by magistrates.

Meanwhile, Gracy May Bradley made a crucial point in an opinion piece in the Guardian, asking ‘Can people of colour trust the UK Covid-19 laws with the police’s track record?’ With the long history of police power being deployed as a disciplinary tool against them, she warns that ‘if communities of colour are left to bear the brunt of arbitrary policing, the damage done will last even when this crisis is over.’

SURVEILLANCE

The BBC, meanwhile, has highlighted proposals for a coronavirus app that alerts people if they have recently been in contact with someone testing positive for the virus. This idea creates some huge concerns about privacy and compulsion. One of the ethics specialists involved in a study by University of Oxford has said that “this is a really unusual situation where lives are at risk, so there is a case to be made to make at least some actions compulsory”.

However, there are already questions about the companies involved in using surveillance to track people who may become infected. Open Rights Group and Privacy International reacted to news that US surveillance company Palantir is in discussion with the NHS to “clean” and analyse bulk health data, including tracking of spare beds, ventilators and calls to 111.  Palantir’s past work has involved tracking of migrants and provision of espionage tools.

RESOURCES

31 March Update

‘UK police chiefs urge forces to prioritise persuasion in tackling virus‘, the Financial Times wrote today, quoting Liberty who warned: ‘The broader aim of protecting public health will be undermined by harsh and heavy handed policing.’ JusticeGap had a similar article.

Police warned against ‘overreach’ in use of virus lockdown powers according to The Guardian front page, adding that the National Police Chief Council would try to end the confusion. In response, the NPPC denied this, tweeting: ‘We are not rewriting our guidance to officers. It remains the same as it was. Engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce. This is a fast changing situation and we, along with the public, are adapting as we go forward.’

‘Everyone in policing is acutely aware that how we police this pandemic will be remembered for many years to come’, says the National Police Chiefs Council lead for… counter-terrorism policing.

In a long-read in The Guardian Peter C Baker says: These powers get put in place, and it sounds reasonable enough at the time – “ and then very quickly they’re applied for other purposes that have nothing to do with democracy‘ and nothing to do with public safety This adequately summarises why we set up this blog.

Meanwhile, the confusion has not ended yet.

In the debate on whether Easter Eggs are essential food (BBC: Easter egg crackdown over essential status ‘wrong’), Greater Manchester Police claim success taking enforcement action against “non-essential business trading”. The law says nothing about ‘non-essential business’ and government guidance is clear that it is not only essential businesses that should stay open. Also, in the same post they incorrectly claim there are only three reasons you can leave your home.

Stop bombarding North Wales Police 999 and 101 lines with queries about dog walking’ NorthWalesLive reported that the force is being overwhelmed with general Corona questions. North Wales Chief Constable states: ‘The most common question is people asking if they can drive somewhere to walk their dog and the answer is no.’

However, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for charging and out of court disposals, Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen, urged people to ‘be sensible’. She said: ‘There isn’t anything definitive in the legislation that talks about ‘can you get in a car to drive to a place to go and do your exercise’.’

Meanwhile, Derbyshire Police, who was criticised for filming Peak District hikers with a drone, has admitted it is powerless to stop people from going walking in the countryside.

With #PoliceState trending today on Twitter, here’s a summary by @BBCDomC of the emergency police powers. The caveat here is officers retain extraordinary discretion to decide how they are implemented. What is normally considered the ‘rule of law’ no longer applies.

@JasonNParkinson tweeted: ‘Last night approx 11pm a vehicle drove along my East London road, a loud speaker repeating, “Stay in your homes”. Has anyone else witnessed any similar activity?’

29/30 March Update

Police need to learn a thing or two about the internet, more specifically about the difference between live-streaming and playing pre-recorded material.

Twelve officers turned up at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool on Saturday night because of reports that a video posted on Facebook was happening live. Footage of the security camera of the club shows that none of the officers was following social distancing guidelines among themselves.

Similarly, Cheshire Police contacted a hunt sabotage group demanding it to publicly confirm that a video it shared on Facebook was filmed pre-lockdown, because these are ‘unprecedented times’. This too had been the result of a complaint (almost certainly from pro-hunt supporters). There has never been any evidence whatsoever that hunt sabs anywhere are ignoring the lockdown.

On the issue of members of the public denouncing others to the authorities, West Midlands Police reported that a video circulating that appeared to show a group of people leaving a mosque in Small Heath in Birmingham had been recorded before lockdown restrictions were imposed.

The confusion over what is allowed and what is not when people leave their homes continues. The Metropolitan Police reported that while patrolling on Saturday, ‘a male who does not live in the area was stopped and subject to a search resulting in a community resolution’. It is unclear on what base the stop and search was performed, and what the resolution entailed. It is not forbidden in any kind of way to be somewhere you don’t live.

In West Yorkshire, Netpol reported that it had been informed police officers had yesterday stopped two care workers, both in their uniforms,  who were sharing a car on the way to work a 12-hour shift together at an old people’s home. The driver was fined £60. The two-metre social distancing rule cannot apply to them, as many of residents they support require two carers

Police in Lancashire have issued 123 fixed penalty notices to people, again confusing advice and rules, according to their Facebook account: ‘Thank you to the vast majority of people across Lancashire who have been sticking to the government advice to stay at home and only travel when essential. We have been patrolling areas across the county and where we have seen people breaking the rules, we have issued fines.’

Warrington Police fined six people over the weekend, including for being ‘out for a drive due to boredom’ and ‘multiple people from the same household going to the shops for non-essential items’. With the few shops that remain opening offering only essentials like food, it’s unclear what shopping for ‘non-essential items’ means. Neither is it clear at what point family members going out to the shops together (whilst unwise) was criminalised.

A man with a history of mental health problems been ordered to pay a £500 fine, £85 prosecution costs and a £50 victim surcharge after he refused to obey coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Swindon residents with doorbell cameras or CCTV at their homes are being urged to register them with Wiltshire Police, who are setting up a database of private cameras.  Amazon Ring doorbells, many with motion-activated sensors, can be linked into other smart devices including mobile phones and Amazon’s Alexa. Is this project set up now just to catch thieves, as the police says, or would such a network come in handy to check on people going out, to assist the enforcement of the lockdown – as happens in other countries?

28 March Update

Police time is being wasted with calls reporting neighbours who’ve had “two runs”. Humberside has become the first police force to create a dedicated online “portal” where people can submit written tip-offs if they spot gatherings of more than two people. Other forces including West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset are following suit. N.B. The legislation doesn’t actually limit you to going out once for exercise, so people having two runs are not breaking the law (just the guidance).

In Greater Manchester, police have interpreted lockdown instructions on regular exercise to say you cannot drive anywhere to do so. You can only walk, cycle or run to and from your home, they’re handing out leaflets reading ‘Why are you here today?’ And here is Northumberland’s stated policy: if you refuse to go home, you’ll be fined.

Devon and Cornwall police were stopping people at road blocks in Exeter yesterday, forcing people to wind down their windows and then leaning in to ask them what they are doing. No masks, a foot or less away.

London’s former police counter-terrorism chief Richard Walton, who authored a paranoid Policy Exchange report on @XRebellionUK, now claims that though most people not wanting to gather together, “this will not stop a minority of groups from potentially exploiting the crisis for their own ends“.

Police should be allowed to fire baton rounds and use tasers against people who defy the Government’s coronavirus lockdown according to a former senior officer. Kevin Hurley, who served in both the Metropolitan and City of London police forces, made the controversial suggestion on Iain Dale’s LBC radio show.

In the midst of demands to stay home, police assist private security to evict people squatting one of Brighton’s 665 empty commercial buildings. “One of the police officers knocked our disabled friend to the floor.

For some context, read ‘From stop and search to coronavirus – increased police powers will always harm people of colour‘ (includes comments from @netpol)