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Update on New Coronavirus Criminal Powers – Individuals

Update on New Coronavirus Criminal Powers – Individuals

What are the new rules?

Subject to further review, no person may leave their home without reasonable excuse.

The exceptions have now been clarified as:

  • To obtain basic necessities such as food, medical supplies and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household (including for pets and animals) and to obtain money and to do the same for vulnerable persons
  • To take exercise once a day either alone or with members of your household
  • To seek medical assistance
  • To provide care or assistance to vulnerable persons or emergency assistance
  • To donate blood
  • To travel to work, voluntary or charitable services where it is not reasonably possible to provide those services from home
  • To attend a funeral of a family member or member of your household
  • To fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court, satisfying bail conditions or participating in legal proceedings
  • To access critical public services, including childcare and educational facilities, social services, services provided by the Department of Work and Pensions and services to victims, such as victims of crime
  • To manage childcare arrangements for co-parenting
  • For ministers and worship leaders to attend their place of worship
  • To avoid injury, illness or to escape harm

At the same time, there is a blanket restriction on public gatherings, except:

  • Where all the persons gathering are members of the same household
  • Where the gathering is necessary for essential work
  • To attend a funeral (as defined above)
  • To provide care for vulnerable persons
  • To provide emergency assistance
  • To fulfil a legal obligation or participate in legal proceedings

How are the rules being enforced? And what are the penalties?

Police officers, police community support officers and designated local authority officers can enforce the new restrictions by:

  • Giving warnings and advice
  • Directing people and the children for whom they are responsible to return to their dwelling, refusal of which constitutes a criminal offence
  • Removing people to their dwelling
  • Issuing prohibition notices, a breach of which constitutes a criminal offence
  • Issuing fixed penalty notices, starting at £60 (reducing to £30 if paid within 14 days) and then doubling for each subsequent offence
  • Prosecuting repeat or flagrant offenders

Anyone not paying their fixed penalty or being prosecuted would face a criminal record and a fine in the Magistrates Court. There is currently no limit on the level of fine that could be imposed by the Magistrates.

It is also worth noting that it is also an offence to:

  • Obstruct, without reasonable excuse, any authorised person carrying out enforcement actions
  • Intentionally provide false or misleading information to any authorised person carrying out enforcement actions

In order to enforce these measures, the police are now starting to set up checkpoints in shopping areas and on roads, so people can be expected to have to justify the reason for their journey or gathering.

How long will the measures be in place?

While the current restrictions are in place for an initial period of three weeks from 24 March 2020, the powers described above are available for an initial 6 month period.

For more information, please contact Michael Gupwell, Partner.


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