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.
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.
Applications for forced marriage protection orders (“FMPO”s) made pursuant to s.63A of the Family Law Act 1996 are on the rise: in 2018, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit provided advice or support in 1,764 possible forced marriage cases; a significant increase from the following 1200-1400 cases in 2017. Also in 2018, Family Court statistics indicate that 322 applications were made and 324 orders granted. Despite applications being made by police, who must seek leave to make such an application under s.63C(3) of the Family Law Act 1996, and local authorities, the legislation itself does not provide clear guidance as to how the court should deal with such applications. The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has now done so in Re K (Forced Marriage: Passport Order) EWCA Civ 190.
In Chief Constable of Essex Police v Transport Arendonk Bvba  EWHC 212 (QB), the High Court (Laing J) refused to strike out a claim in negligence, against the police, where the driver of a lorry carrying cargo had been arrested for drink-driving, and the cargo had been stolen during the driver’s detention at the police station. It demonstrates the continued difficulty to identify what is a police “act” or “omission” – and what amounts to the police causing a state of danger, giving rise to liability.
It is possible for the social media activity of professionals to amount to professional misconduct, even if seemingly made in a personal capacity and where freedom of speech is claimed. The case of Diggins v Bar Standards Board  EWHC 467 (Admin), holds that there is no “bright line” between conduct that falls within the private realm as opposed to that which is sufficiently public to engage a professional disciplinary jurisdiction. It is sometimes argued in police misconduct hearings that private social-media behaviour of officers falls outwith professional misconduct – that might be the case on particular facts but the instant case shows that this is not necessarily so.