The case of R (Bridges) v Chief Constable of South Wales Police & Information Commissioner  EWCA Civ 1058 (handed down on 11 August 2020) was an appeal from what is said to have been the first claim brought before a court anywhere on planet earth concerning the use by police of automated facial recognition (“AFR”) technology. There could be nothing wrong with posting scores of police officers with eidetic memories to look out for up to a 800 wanted persons at public gatherings. So why not use a powerful computer, capable of matching 50 faces a second with a database of (under) 800 suspects, to do this job much more cheaply and instantaneously, flagging any matches to a human operator for final assessment? According to the Court of Appeal in Bridges, this system constitutes an interference with Article 8 rights which is not such as is in accordance with the law, but which (critically) would be proportionate if a sufficiently narrow local policy were framed.
The system in use in South Wales will require a more rigorous local policy to be put in place which reduces the breadth of discretion available to individual officers as to who and (connectedly) where may be targeted for the use of AFR, as well as sufficient impact assessments, pursuant to the Equality Act 2010 and DPA 2018, and a sufficient DPA 2018 policy statement.
In Tindall v Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police  EWHC 837 (QB) — available on Westlaw but not yet Bailii or the ICLR, the courts have again demonstrated a reluctance to strike-out a police negligence claim. This shows the difficulty of trying to show whether the police have positively created a danger/made it worse or merely refrained from protecting someone. A claim against the police for negligence will usually arise in the first instance but not, subject to exceptions, the second.
The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has successfully challenged a misconduct hearing panel’s decision to impose a Final Written Warning (FWW), after an officer made racist remarks about a fellow officer: R (Chief Constable of West Midlands Police) v Panel Chair, Police Misconduct Panel  EWHC 1400 (Admin). The decision confirms that the High Court will be prepared to intervene where panels fail to follow the College of Policing’s Guidance on Outcomes, and that misconduct involving discrimination will be treated especially seriously.
Laws which criminalise what would otherwise be normal daily life and which the police must enforce must be clear, unambiguous, fair and fairly applied, logical and proportionate to the public health imperative. The purpose of this blog post is to illustrate the difficulties with the amended legislation, the inconsistencies between the laws of the four nations of the UK, as well as the problems of enforcement by the police. Whatever the problems with the legislation, whatever the high profile breaches, people must socially distance and must wear masks when unable to do so. The coronavirus is not going away soon, or perhaps ever. It may be joined by other novel viruses and human life may have to change.
With greatly improving weather, and recent news of high profile breaches of the rules, the British public have decided for themselves to begin to emerge from lockdown and to start enjoy the weather. The four nations of the UK have responded to this by relaxing the lockdown regulations applicable to each of them, albeit in distinct ways, to different extents and at slightly different points in time.
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.