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 the Coronavirus 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.