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)

27 March Update

After initial confusion yesterday, some clarification from @PoliceChiefs, rules on what you can do outdoors, and how you could be fined, summarised by BBC correspondent Dominic Casciani. Still waiting for the full guidance to police forces on all coronavirus powers, not just on social – or rather: physical – distancing.

Police have already issued fines to people breaching coronavirus lockdown rules, less than 24 hours after new laws came into force, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) confirmed to reporters – without further details yet.

Extraordinary scene at Grodzinski in Edgware sees police officer attempt to fine bakery £80 for drawing social distancing lines in chalk to help keep customers safe from coronavirus.

The Derbyshire police and other uncertainty over the rights to enforce what made the front page of The Times today, while new reports of police drones maintaining public order come in. Again in north Wales, patrolling parks and open spaces in the more rural areas of Wrexham.

Neath Port Talbot Council aired a flying surveillance camera is barking orders at ‘people not following government measures on social distancing’. @BigBrotherWatch quoted a local resident saying: “This upset a lot of people today at Neath Boots. People were waiting for prescriptions and people were very orderly and staying two metres apart’.

The lawyer David Allen Green has produced a detailed guide on his Law and Policy Blog explaining the restrictions on freedom of movement introduced under the emergency coronavirus legislation.

Dijen Basu QC and Elliot Gold have produced a similar guide on the UK Police Law Blog.

Louise Hooper of Garden Court Chambers has produced a briefing on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

26 March Update

Derbyshire Police sent out their drone unit to and ‘beauty spots’ in the Peak district, and tweeted footage captured at Curbar Edge the night before. The camera zoomed in to isolated people questioning why they were out there, and blaming them for walking their dog and not staying at home. The police tweeted: ‘Daily exercise should be taken locally to your home. Under government guidance all travel is limited to essential travel only.’ While many on Twitter thought that it was the police going too far, and did they not have better things to do, Derbyshire Police continued to defend their action, saying they had done it to get the message through. (The Global Times suggested, the police was inspired by the sharp-tongued drones used in China, berating people for not wearing masks.)

Adam Wagner, human rights barrister at Doughty Street, tried to figure out how this was lawful, and concluded there is a confusing difference between the government’s directions and what is in the Coronavirus law. In a long thread, detailing his concerns, Wagner says: ‘Importantly, there’s no general “essential trip” requirement for police to enforce. For a trip to be lawful a person must have “reasonable excuse” and there are a number of those including to “take exercise” – no requirement for that to be “essential”. So I see no reason why it is unlawful for people to take exercise wherever they want, including in parks and local ‘beauty spots’, as long as not gathering in groups of more than 3 not part of their household (though that isn’t very clear to be fair)’.

Meanwhile, police Humberside police creates online report portal for people not social distancing. The force says the portal has been made in response to an increase in the number of calls to its non-emergency 101 number following the government’s announcement earlier this week around new police powers to disperse groups. Northamptonshire Police said the force control room has had “dozens and dozens” of calls about people ignoring the order, including reports from people whose neighbours are gathering in their back gardens. A spokes person for the police said “We won’t have police officers crashing through garden fences to check the ID of everyone… We wouldn’t want to discourage people from making us aware, but we have to set expectations.” Adding however: “But be under no illusion, we will be using these powers if necessary.”

Devon & Cornwall Police has issued an update to parents saying “potentially, failure to adhere to… instructions could be deemed as a failure to safeguard your children… Partner agencies will be informed where we have concerns about people’s abilities to parent their children.”

25 March Update

In London, a taskforce of 500 officers questioned passengers about their journey in a bid to cut the number of people on public transport. Some commuters were told: ‘we don’t want to see you tomorrow’ as police began a series of checks at rail and tube stations in centra London and the suburbs, ITV reported. The move came as Transport for London announced a third of its workers were off sick or self-isolating. Staff shortages led to further cuts in the number of tube trains and a warning from mayor Sadiq Khan of even fewer in the days ahead.

‘Police confused over enforcement of coronavirus lockdown rules on the British public’, the Telegraph reported. Derbyshire Police launched “proactive” patrols that included cars equipped with loudhailers ordering people indoors. The force said it would not flinch from breaking up builders working too close together, failing to add that most builders are forced to continue showing up – without proper health instructions.

But other forces contacted by The Telegraph are pursuing a more “softly softly” approach, unwilling to fine people caught breaching the coronavirus lockdown.

Durham and North Yorkshire Police launched spot checks on those venturing outside, the local Darlington and Stockton Times reported, to tackle a minority of people who are ignoring stark government warnings to avoid non-essential journeys. In an unprecedented action on key routes and town and city centres, they questioned people about their reasons for not being at home, as senior officers tried to press home the importance of social distancing and isolation due to the Coronavirus crisis.

The move comes ahead of emergency legislation that is expected to give police enforcement powers to issue fines over is expected to become law the same day.

24 March Update

Police officers in Foleshill, Coventry tried to enforce the UK lockdown before their emergency powers came into force by disrupting a barbecue. Police said they tipped over the barbecue and insisted the group, which included a small child and people in their 60s, disperse.

Less than a day before, the prime minister has demanded the closure of all but essential shops, instructing police to deter people from leaving their homes. Gathering in groups larger than two is no longer allowed in order to enforce physical distancing, which is considered vital to stopping Covid-19. Parliament had yet to vote on the Coronavirus Bill, on 25th March.

Police in Crewe have stopped motorists to ask them for the purpose of their journeys as part of the lockdown across the UK in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, Sir Peter Fahy, a former chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said enforcing the lockdown would be impossible if it was solely down to stretched officers and that community and social pressure was key. “They can’t really enforce it,” he said.

23 March Update

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) calls for ‘urgent’ legislation to protect officers from the public. The Federation has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to introduce urgent legislation to enforce social distancing to protect officers from members of the public who may be infected with the coronavirus.

Exactly what the Police Federation’s demands are unclear from this Police Professional article, but seem to include criminalising failure to physical distance and making coughing at officers an assault. Incidentally any testimony about misuse of spit hoods is one issue we’d like to hear in the coming months.