The extraordinary formal powers conferred by the Coronavirus Act and the Health Protection Regulations, 2020, combined with the speed with which legislation has been passed by Parliament, have left much uncertainty as to what is allowed and what constitutes a criminal offense in the context of solitary confinement.
What are your rights under lockdown?
The activities provided for by health regulations which constitute a “reasonable excuse” for leaving the house are listed (in alphabetical order from A to M). These include procuring food and medical supplies, exercising “alone or with other members of their household”, seeking medical assistance and providing care to a vulnerable person.
It is also permitted to attend the funeral of a close family member, “to relocate when reasonably necessary”, and of any arrangements between separated parents and children. Travel for work purposes where it cannot be carried out from their home, as well as for the provision of voluntary services, is also legal.
Why have there been disagreements over these limited rights?
The problem is that ministers and government officials, wanting to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, issue more restrictive directives than the law or regulations do. Some police forces have followed their example.
Downing Street was forced to point out that people can go out to buy food more than once a week on Tuesday after transportation secretary Grant Shapps erroneously said purchases should be limited.
A statement from the Interior Ministry on March 26 said that people could only leave their homes for “very limited purposes”, including “one form of exercise a day”. Some police websites also initially indicated that the exercise was only allowed once a day. Health regulations, however, say nothing about the frequency allowed.
When can the police arrest you and what sanctions can they impose?
The police have the power to order anyone to return home if they believe they are released without reasonable excuse. Officers can also order anyone with a child to bring a non-compliant youth home. When three or more people are gathered without reasonable excuse, they may be ordered to disperse.
The latest police guidelines on the application do not specify what forms of evidence would be required if, for example, someone says that they will take care of a vulnerable parent. It states that officers will apply the law “in a flexible, discretionary and pragmatic system. This will allow officers to make sensible decisions and use their judgment. The app should be a last resort. “
Failure to comply is punishable by a fine. Fixed penalties are £ 60 or £ 30 if paid within 14 days. For subsequent penalty notices, fines can reach £ 960. Those who do not pay can be brought to justice.
Can people appeal fines?
The courts do not hear many cases at the moment, but anyone who believes they have been sentenced to an improper fine can go to court to challenge it. Civil liberties organizations may consider supporting court challenges in the future if they believe that fines are being unfairly imposed and that the foreclosure continues for a long time.
Is there public consent for these police powers?
A consensus could develop. Gracie Bradley, policy and campaign manager for human rights organization Liberty, said this week, “There have been incredible community responses to this pandemic, and people have shown they are willing to change the way they live – but that goodwill, and more broadly to protect public health, will be undermined by harsh and brutal police action. “
Katy Bourne, President of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said, “We are justifiably proud of our model of consent-based policing in this country, and CPCs know that for these measures to be truly effective, police will: maintain public confidence. It means calmly engaging, explaining and encouraging people to do the right thing, not being overzealous and taking action only as a last resort. “