Covid19 Legislation and police conduct (Part 3)

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 referred or called the lockdown represent the most significant and blanket interference with individual liberty in modern times. 

The extreme measures can only be lawful if justified by potential loss of life, and if the measures only interfere with human rights and civil liberties to the extent necessary, are enforced in a clear, reasonable and balanced manner, and enforcement is authorised and does not go beyond what is prohibited by law.

There have been significant concerns that some police forces have enforced the government guidance, rather than the new Health Protection Regulations, which are less stringent in some respects, which it appears maybe unlawful and a serious and significant over reaching of the police powers….the police had no right in law to act as they have.

The regulations, which give police powers to arrest and fine people for breaking them, do not define “essential travel”, or specify what kind of groceries people can buy.

Official police guidance says there is no power to “stop and account”, this is where a police officer stops someone and asks what they are doing. If stopped for the purpose of enforcing the above regulations, this may amount to an unlawful act, and any sanction may amount to a breach of a persons human rights. 

It is crucial that government and police messaging reflects the law. To do otherwise with members of the public being punished without any legal basis, contrary to Article 7 ECHR and the rule of law.. 

Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides as follows: (1) No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.

The right to no punishment without law is absolute. This means that it cannot be restricted in any way. However, the Human Rights Act does make an exception for acts that were ‘against the general law of civilised nations’ at the time they were committed.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

Below is intended as a guidance and clarity as to what the above law/regulations set out. 

Rights To Exercise. 

The law in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland does not specify a number of times, and so police cannot enforce a limits.

Right to Travel for exercise.

The law across the UK does not prohibit travelling away from your home in order to exercise, for example by driving to a location in order to go for a walk.

There isn’t anything definitively in the legislation that talks about whether people can or cannot get in a car to drive to a place and do exercise. 

Right to Leaving home

Before the lockdown was announced, the government called for people to avoid non-essential travel. Their is no definition of “non-essential travel’ within the legislation. It states that: “During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without “reasonable excuse”.

The restriction does not apply to homeless people, or those — such as domestic violence or child abuse victims — who leave home to avoid injury or “escape the risk of harm”.

The “place where they are living” includes gardens, yards, passages, stairways, garages and outhouses.

The law provides a long list of “reasonable excuses”, which is not restrictive but open to be added to. The ‘examples’ given in the legislation include obtaining “basic necessities”, including food and medical supplies for the household, or for vulnerable people.

Right regarding Gatherings

The law bans public gatherings of more than two people, except in specific circumstances.

Lawful Gatherings. 

Such gatherings are not illegal when the people are “members of the same household”, i.e. a family that lives together, cohabiting couples or housemates.

Gatherings are also permitted if they are “essential for work purposes”, to provide care to a vulnerable person, emergency assistance, take part in legal proceedings, attend a funeral or where “reasonably necessary”, such as when moving house.

Right to Shopping 

The law describes “obtaining basic necessities” as a reason to leave home, police leaders have not expressed an intention to check what people are buying. The law has not prescribed what is ‘basic necessities”. Any enforcement may prove difficult and lead to possible cases of police over reaching its power. 

Legislation referred to here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/made

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