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The Coronavirus Act 2020.

England

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 - restrictions on movement and gathering. They revoke the previous regulations. They contain wide restrictions on conduct, apply to England only and will remain force for six months.​

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Amendment Regulations 2020 - one of the most important changes is the addition of the words "be outside of" to regulation 6(1). Here is the Explanatory Note

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.

Wales

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020. Here is the Explanatory Note

Guidance

Staying alert and safe (social distancing) 11 May 2020.

College of Policing latest frontline policing updates.

College of Policing Guidance on the Coronavirus Act 2020: police working with health professionals to make people safer and save lives.

Crown Prosecution Service, College of Policing and National Police Chiefs Council Guidance on what constitutes a reasonable excuse to leave the place where you live.

College of Policing and National Police Chiefs Guidance on policing the pandemic – possible Bank Holiday weekend issues

Guidance on Further Premises to Close.

The ‘lockdown’ has been slightly relaxed in England but much less so in the other three nations. In England, this relaxation was announced by the Prime Minister in a nationally televised address at 7pm on a Sunday. By 7am the next day, there was considerable uncertainty as to what he meant and from when he meant things to change. The First Secretary of State, no less, had to be subsequently ‘corrected’ by his own Government after a Radio 4 interview. The more draconian the legal restrictions are, the more important it is to ensure that they are readily understood by the population, which must obey them, and by the police, who must enforce them. Otherwise, they lose much of their utility in the protection of public health. That is as true of restrictions that are relaxed as it is of the original restrictions.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and the similar (but not identical) regulations made in the other 3 nations of the UK (together, “the ‘Lockdown’ Regulations”) have been suggested by some to be unlawful (being ultra vires their parent statute) insofar as they purport to criminalise all those leaving the places where they are living, as opposed to merely those who may be infected. This blog examines the main arguments and explains the legal consequences if those arguments are right.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 at reg 6(1) create a prohibition against leaving one's home without reasonable excuse rather than being outside one's home without reasonable excuse. Not only is that narrower than many people had thought, it shapes the powers of a police constable to direct or remove people to their home, which depends upon the constable considering that they have breached reg 6(1). Furthermore, in criminal proceedings for a breach, it may be that the burden of establishing of the defence of reasonable excuse is on a defendant in Scotland but on the prosecution in the other three home nations. 

  1. This note is intended to assist Appropriate Authorities (“AAs”), Professional Standards Departments (“PSDs”) and hearings units to progress misconduct proceedings[1] under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 and 2020 (“PCR”), during the outbreak of COVID-19. We suggest that AAs should try to proceed with hearings by video and/or telephone where possible, and we explore the practical implications of doing so. 

  2. What follows are simply our suggestions. They carry no legal authority. We have endeavoured to keep this document brief and to avoid duplication of other more general or analogous guidance.[2] Any person concerned with misconduct procedures should keep track of the general position in respect of the COVID-19 outbreak and the advice from HM Government at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

For those wishing to exercise their exercise rights, the new Coronavirus regulations treat English and Welsh joggers rather differently.

Regulation 6 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 states that, “During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.” A reasonable excuse includes, under Reg.6(2), the need “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household.”

By contrast, Regulation 8(2) of The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 states that a reasonable excuse includes the need, “to take exercise, no more than once a day, either alone or with other members of the household.” [emphasis added]

The reason for this difference in treatment is unclear. It seems unlikely that the challenging Welsh topography explains why an exercise session is to be regarded as so much more exhausting than it might be on the English lowland plains. It might be suggested that, even in England, there is no ‘need’ to go out of the house to exercise more than once a day. This may be debatable, for example when issues of mental health are taken into account.

These differences in drafting demonstrate how challenging a job it will be for the police to encourage and enforce compliance with the new restrictions, while remaining understanding of the challenges that people face, and adhering to the hallowed principle of policing by consent.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 were made at 1pm on 26 March 2020 and are now in force. They contain sweeping restrictions never before seen in peacetime in the United Kingdom. They apply to England only and expire in 6 months. They revoke and replace the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 – leaving the business closures in place.

The powers in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 allow a constable to “take such action as is necessary to enforce a premises closure or restriction”. The powers in theCoronavirus Act 2020, schedule 22 (formerly schedule 21 in the Bill) are to enforce a restriction or prohibition on gatherings or events and to close and restrict access to premises during a public health response period. Again, it will allow a constable to “take such action as is necessary to enforce such a restriction, prohibition or closure”. But what does the phrase, “take such action as is necessary to enforce …” mean?

The almost 330-page Coronavirus Bill 2020 was published on Thursday 19 March 2020 and is likely to become law on Thursday 26 March. It will contain a 6-month sunset clause but may be renewed. The key parts of the Bill from the point of view of policing are Schedule 20 – which deals with powers relating to potentially infected persons – and Schedule 21 – which deals with powers to restrict events, gatherings and premises. This article provides a summary of the police powers and duties. They may change in the light of the Prime Minister’s televised national address on the evening of Monday 23 March.

No one reading this blog will have failed to notice that yesterday evening, the Prime Minister announced a series of measures which some are referring to as “lockdown”. The full text of the announcement can be found here.

It is also clear that the enforcement many of these will involve the police. However, the basis or extent of these powers has not been made clear. For example, in relation to the announcement that the government is “stopping all public gatherings of more than two people” it has been said that the police will have the power both to fine people and to disperse such gatherings. The announcement does not make clear: 

We are all under attack from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (“the Coronavirus”). This time, our foe is not a country, a terrorist group or a person. Nor is it a predator. Chillingly, it is not even alive. The Government has exceptionally wide powers under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 in this present emergency which could include forcible quarantine and assessment, the confiscation or requisition of property and compelling citizens to assist in policing.​

The Coronavirus Bill was published on Thursday 19 March 2020: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0122/20122.pdf. It is likely to become law on Monday 23 March 2020.

The Bill, at sch 20, pt 2, para 24(1), revokes (and replaces) the very recent Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/129).

On 20 March 2020, Dijen Basu QC, David Lawson and Elliot Gold recorded video seminars on new and existing police powers, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, police organisation and collaboration and the duty of care to officers, police staff and members of the public arising from the Coronavirus emergency.

Below are links to the seminars:-

Dijen Basu QC speaks about the police powers in the Coronavirus Bill 2020 - schedules 20 and 21.

Elliot Gold speaks about the police collaboration, mutual aid, increasing police numbers and resilience.

Dijen Basu QC speaks about the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.

David Lawson gives an overview of the Coronavirus Bill 2020.

There is also a private link for the questions and answers sessions that we recorded, dealing with questions that people emailed to us. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.