It is interesting to see the College of Policing, which sets professional standards, and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), and tells officers both what they can do and what police leaders would prefer them to refrain from doing, have been forced to intervene following widespread public concern of police attacks on civil liberties.
They have issued new guidance to forces in an attempt to put the rein the gestapo egos of the police.
It seems the police chiefs, having faced increased scrutiny from the public and group such as Netpol, want to remind the rank and file police that “they police by consent”.
Communities should not be naive to accept that the police forces really accept or believe this principle. If they did, surely the haste at which the police infringed our civil liberties would not have be so instant. The facts show that the police are always at the starting blocks, ready to impose a police state.
In an attempt to justify the actions of the police, they are using the excuse “the legislation was vague”. If that’s the case, why did the police elect to over reach their powers, infringe civil and legal rights, act outside of the law, impose powers they did not have, rather than approach with caution and common sense?
The College of Policing have stated “we should reserve enforcement only for individuals who have not responded to engage, explain, and encourage, where public health is at risk,” Taking this as a base line for any action, the police have set out the test, which appears to be subjective and may require expert knowledge in a particular area. This knowledge, it seems would not be found within the rank and file police.
The briefing also says parents or guardians can be fined if their children break the law and force can be used to get a child back home: “If you are dealing with a parent or guardian who is not preventing their child going outdoors and all other avenues to engage, explain and encourage have been exhausted, you should enforce by issuing them with a fine.”
It is very concerning that at a time of hardship, and increase in Domestic Violence (DV) (7 women died in the first 10 days of lockdown) legislation has been drafted to impose a financial sanction on those who may be in food poverty. Victims of DV often don’t ‘speak out’ for a number of reasons. It can not be morally right to impose a punitive sanction resulting in the state or the parent to back children and themselves into a place of harm.
The legislation does permit for parents or guardians of children to be issued with an enforcement notice attracting a fine of £60 reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If there is a repeated breach the fines double each time.
It’s interesting the original test “engage, explain, and encourage, where public health is at risk.” has, it appears be weakened and the last part completely removed, when it is applied to children.
It’s essential to refer to what the legislation sets out:
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020
Restrictions on movement:
6. (A) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse. (B) To take exercise either alone or with other members of their household.
Restrictions on gatherings:
7. During the emergency period, no person may participate in a gathering in a public place of more than two people except— (A) where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household.
The LAW does not prohibit families going outside NOR does it limit frequency.
It was Boris Johnson who expressed his preferences as to manner, form and duration of exercise, hastily followed by his old chum Micheal Gove who expressed his preference to exercising for 30 minutes. It is clear there are Government preferences, NOT the law.
Has the College of Policing confused Government preferences and or wishes or views as the law or legislation?
If so, they must remind themselves and their rank and file officers, that express Government preferences with no legal authority and the police must not use as a matter of law, to enforce ministers’ wishes. To do so suggests a willingness and desire to impose a police state. Such an imposition may give rise to civil disobedience and potentially civil unrest.
The legislation refers to a “relevant person” it is important we can identify who such a person is.
Enforcement of requirement:
8.— 12) For the purposes of this regulation— a “relevant person” means
(i) a constable
(ii) a police community support officer.
This section appears to be based solo on the subjective opinion of the relevant person. This appears to have a balancing test before moving to enforcement.
It is necessary and proportionate to give the prohibition notice for the purpose of preventing that person from continuing to contravene the requirement.
The contravention appears to have been interpreted by The College of Policing as “where public health is at risk”.
Whilst it maybe helpful to the relevant person operating under the guidance of The College of Policing. It is for a Court of Law to have the final interpretation of Law, not an advisory body.
The dangers of allowing the police or it governing body to interpret law have been clearly demonstrated in recent days. The police overreached it’s authority, and did so in a confrontational manner.
There is no power to ‘stop and account’. The police must apply the law in a system that is flexible, discretionary and pragmatic. This may assist in healing the hurt fear and anxiety caused by the draconian and confrontational approach taken thus far.
The rules will be in place for an emergency period which must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on 16 April 2020