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#UK: Policing the #Corona State

UK. A diary of security and surveillance during Britain’s state of emergency.

Originally published by Policing the Corina State.

April 17, 2020

The Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has said the police must stop overstepping their powers under new coronavirus laws in order to maintain public trust. MPs have identified errors “through social media and press reporting”, and called for forces to “ensure that there are proper checks in place”. It adds:

It is vital that all forces and all officers understand the distinction between Government advice and legal requirement, and that the tone and tactics they use are appropriate to each. Failing to do so depletes public trust.

The Committee’s report, “Home Office preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus): Policing”, is available here. The oral evidence to the Committee is available here.

There has been widespread condemnation that at a time when police are rigorously and often arbitrarily enforcing physical distancing and lockdown movement rules in parks and beauty spots around the country, the same rules did not apply when a crowd of police and members of the public were allowed to gather on Westminster Bridge for the ‘Clap For Carers’ initiative at 8pm yesterday evening.

As one Netpol member group, Activist Court Aid Brigade pointed out, it was difficult to argue that this police behaviour was the result of a lack of supervision when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick was present in person.

There were similar scenes in South Yorkshire and in Fife of police officers ignoring physical distancing to take part in organised clapping.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, one user complained that her son was told “to go home by a PCSO whilst he was on his BMX, as she decided it didn’t count as exercise as “he wasn’t sweating”. He’d just finished an 8-hour shift as an essential worker too”.

In Scotland, a disabled woman, who lives in a sheltered housing complex in Edinburgh, was left in tears and feeling worried after police warned she may be fined for having too many visitors.

In West Yorkshire, there has been a surge in “neighbours snitching on lockdown flouters”. Writing for Vice, Ruby Lott-Lavigna says we are living through the “Golden Age of Snitching”. as the British public are encouraged to report on their neighbours.

PRISONS

The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust have written to the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, setting out a proposed judicial review of his plans for reducing the prison population, warning of a “public health catastrophe” if the release of prisoners is not accelerated. The Prison Reform Trust claims only 18 prisoners have so far been released from jails in England and Wales.

As of 5pm yesterday, the number of infected prisoners stood at 255 across 62 prisons, an increase of 10%in 24 hours. There were also 138 prison staff tested positive for the coronavirus across 49 prisons, a 43% increase over the same period.

RESOURCES

There has been considerable coverage in the local press over the last 24 hours (see this example) of Google’s latest Covid-19 Community Mobility Report (PDF, dated 11 April), which shows changes in movement in terms of transport, public spaces (such as parks and beaches) and shops. It gives an indication of how well the public is sticking to coronavirus lockdown measures.

April 18 – 19, 2020

POLICING

There was widespread national media coverage of a video shared on Twitter showing a Lancashire Police officer threatening to fabricate a charge to detain a young man up, saying “I’ll lock you up… We’ll make something up… who are they going to believe, me or you?” in what Netpol called an unusual moment of transparency

As a thread by David Allen Green pointed out, Police Twitter “followed the usual trajectory” of bad-faith efforts to discredit the video or claim it was unrepresentative, but Lancashire police have apologised and launched an investigation. 

Despite fresh guidance from the National Police Chiefs Council on lockdown measures issued last week, Dorset Police plans to ignore them and will not be making changes to its enforcement of travel. A network representing police and crime commissioners from rural areas is lobbying against the revised, less rigid freedom of movement guidelines. North Yorkshire’s Julia Mulligan, who chairs the network, calls the revisions “hugely unhelpful”.

Meanwhile, over the weekend there were further reports of the kind of arbitrary and often petty demands by police to move people along.

In Stoke-on-Trent, police have been asked to step up patrols to stop so-called ‘lockdown loiterers’. One woman commented on how she had told police community support officers in her area that sniping at women who are walking was unprofessional. In Clissold Park in Hackney in east London, two police officers were photographed telling a black man who was exercising to leave whilst ignoring a white man was practicing handstands nearby.

In Birmingham, police confronted a family from the same household and told them to stop eating dinner together on their own driveway. West Midlands Police say they used a ‘common sense’ approach “to stop people flouting orders to stay at home”.

In the north of Ireland, the mother of a child with special needs in County Down said that had PSNI officers had ordered her to leave her front garden and stay indoors, even though no one from another household was present. The following day she was again sitting in the garden when two police cars pulled up and officers told her that a neighbour had reported her for being seated in her garden.

After numerous forces have set up reporting mechanisms enabling people to denounce their neighbours for alleged lockdown infractions, the police are now calling for an end to ‘lockdown-shaming’ as a weapon in feuds. Forces are receiving thousands of complaints about rule-breaking and fear many are used to settle scores.

Following the condemnation of police gathering on Westminster Bridge last week, there have been further examples of officers in London failing to observe the physically distancing rules that everyone else is urged to follow, such as in New Cross where around 50 police officers gathered outside Queens Rd Fire Station and Special Constables in south London posing for a promotional photo.

COMMENT

“Police Twitter pages boasting about their corona patrols finding a small piece of cannabis, or regulating what they consider are “essential” items for someone’s supermarket trolley appears to show they are enjoying the new status” argues Plan C.

“It might be tempting for some to search for a law enforcement solution to the pandemic”, says the ACLU’s New York chapter, but “we should always remember that police officers are not health care workers and they should not be on the front lines of solving this crisis. In some instances, they can make things worse.

Northwich Guardian: “Police want us to report lockdown breaches – but is it the right thing to do?

April 20, 2020

POLICING

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths president of the Police Superintendents’ Association warned today that police must prepare for a “more volatile and agitated society” after the end of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

Perhaps appropriately, therefore, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) of the House of Commons and the House of Lords met to examine the enforcement of the lockdown and the confusion between law and guidance (can be watched here). This was its first remote hearing.

Minister for Justice Robert Buckland was asked whether he was worried about the way the police are enforcing the new powers in the Coronavirus Act, whether he was worried about human rights being compromised and how high a priority this is for the government.

Buckland responded, “The question of the balance between rights and proportionality has been at the heart of our deliberations.”

Committee chair Harriett Harman asked: “What role are you taking in monitoring the implementation of the Coronavirus Act?” Buckland’s answer was again very unspecific: “[The] Key line of accountability is the Government Legal Department reporting to the Attorney General on how measures being implemented. My role is as political antennae of government. Rather than my acting as an early warning system, individual Ministers must take responsibility.”

Karen Buck MP said, “We are using the criminal law here to enforce the lockdown effectively. The consequences of that is profound. It is incredibly important that we get things right as people will have a criminal record if found guilty under this legislation.” The Secretary of State conceded that “we are getting examples of failure by the investigating authority to apply the law/principle properly. But we have the independent judiciary/court system which deals with the issues and makes the necessary rulings”.

Buckland also warned police not to “name and shame” people who flout lockdown laws unless they’ve been convicted. “If in doubt, don’t,” he told the  Committee, but also said that police sharing large group photos is okay to show general “poor behaviour”.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in London, there was a report of “a whole squadron” of Metropolitan Police pulling over vehicles on Tower Bridge but targetting only cars driven by black men. The Met Contact Centre replied on Twitter that her observations was passed to the local police officer. Others responded with similar observations, but there was the usual backlash of denial and distraction from supporters of the police on Twitter.

The Lancashire Police officer captured on camera over the weekend threatening to arrest a man on a fabricated offence has been suspended and the force has decided the matter is serious enough to make a voluntary referral to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

COMMENT

Inside the COVID-19 State: Protecting Public Health Through Law Enforcement, Dr Lambros Fatsis, Criminology at the University of Brighton in The BSC Blog.

Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations interviewed Suresh Grover & Dorothea Jones from The MonitoringGroup (TMG), asking: are race hate crimes now the collateral damage of COVID19?

We need Big Brother to beat this virus, argues former Downing Street speechwriter Clare Foges in the Times (paywall). Foges previously argued (wrongly) back in March that the public is “too selfish to stop coronavirus spreading” and that this required the government to take more draconian steps.

PRISONS

The Minister of Justice has confirmed that there have been 13 confirmed dead, with 298 prisoners tested positive for the coronavirus across 67 jails. 

April 21 – 22, 2020

POLICING

Like Sussex Police, Dorset Police is still advising people to avoid driving for their daily exercise if possible, even though last week the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the professional standards body the College of Policing published a document that categorically stated it is “lawful to drive for exercise”. Apparently, Dorset Police have a very strict interpretation of the regulations and the law. Baroness Jenny Jones posted a photo of a gate, writing: “This notice you have put up is inaccurate. People can exercise as often as they like. Nothing in law prevents them. You are repeating ministerial comments which have no force in law.”

Yesterday, Police Scotland clarified lockdown rules saying that, unlike south of the border, measures have not changed since lockdown was introduced. People in Scotland are still not allowed to drive in order to exercise, you can only leave your house once to do this, you can take a rest, but not too long. Scottish people are not allowed to visit friends at their homes, even if they need to “cool off” after an argument.

Meanwhile some police forces are deleting their own tweets about enforcements of coronavirus regulations. A tweet by Thames Valley Police boasting about how many cars they were stopping disappeared after David Allen Green asked on what was the legal basis for these stops. Luckily someone made a screenshot, while their colleagues in Reading retweeted a later boast about four different ‘vehicle stop checks’. Advice from the NPCC says: “Road checks on every vehicle is equally disproportionate.”

An example of overheated policing, shared by Matt Cole, was of “a tiny verbal disagreement leads to tons of cops (3 vans & 5 cars, 1 unmarked) descending onto to my estate, violently harassing residents. Completely disproportionate. A group of them forced their way into a house and pulled a young man out before throwing him to the ground”. Coles overheard a police officer from his window “saying they had a report that there were “30 people fighting with knives”. I watched what was actually happening and it was about six people having a heated argument and some shouting before dispersing”.

A pensioner and retired social worker were assaulted by a police officer in the pandemic for no reason whatsoever. She was not arrested, but Thames Valley Police did no keep any distance. She had just asked a HS2 worker about a barn owl nest at this location. Video of the incident (Warning Facebook Link). Ann told Lizzy Williams: “I’m alright. All I wanted to know was if the bats & the owls in the barn were going to be looked after properly, but the #HS2 workers simply turned their backs on and sent the police out on me. If he bent my arm any further he would have broken it. I’m only 8 stone”. The National Eviction Team at Crackley Wood forcefully restrained an ancient woodlands protector who was trying to record the excessive violence, again, no distance was kept. (see video)

COMMENT

Coronavirus discriminates against Black lives through surveillance, policing and the absence of health data, Beverly Bain, OmiSoor Dryden and Rinaldo Walcott in The Conversation.

Daniel Trottier reflects on neighbourhood vigilance & vigilantism during the COVID-19 pandemic: does scrutiny & denunciation combine both entertainment & justice-seeking? In Open Book Blog.

Coronavirus Act labelled “draconian” in Civicus Monitor, tracking civic space.

RESOURCES

Useful report from The Institute of Government’s Raphael_Hogarth on parliament’s role during the pandemic with a timeline of recent emergency laws.

Tom Hickman offers eight ways to reinforce and revise the lockdown law

Francis_Hoar argues that the nationwide lockdown is not proportionate under human rights law

“Coronavirus and Human Rights: Policing, Surveillance and Detention in a Pandemic”: a @HumanRightsLawA online event with @DoughtyStPublic’s @Kirsty_Brimelow, @matrixchambers’s Chris Buttler and @libertyhq’s @Hannah_Couchman. 12th May at 4pm. Sign up at via Eventbrite

April 23, 2020

POLICING

With no parliamentary scrutiny, the government has changed existing lockdown regulations to create a new offence of “being outside” your home, as well as leaving it, without a reasonable excuse – even if you had a perfectly good reason to go out in the first place.

The amended regulations are available here and an explanatory note here. It now says “during the emergency period, no person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

Home Office lawyers are, according to the legal commentator David Allen Green, “passing off a significant extension of the criminal law as a “clarification” – and there is no good reason for that extension not to have parliamentary approval when parliament is now in session”. Green looks in more detail on the significance of the extension of the restriction on movement in a post on his Law and Policy Blog.

Barrister Adam Wagner has summarised the changes in this Twitter thread. As Big Brother Watch wryly noted, if the amended regulations had been in place during the “the police festival on Westminster Bridge” last week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick may have been liable for a fine for going outside with a reasonable excuse then remaining outside for an entirely different purpose.

Netpol, which has been receiving stories and personal testimony on the impact of policing of lockdown regulations, was given permission to share a report that police in north London interrogating a carer for taking an autistic, non-verbal young person to the local park. The carer said that officers had previously refused to leave the young person alone until she got up and left, ignoring revised guidance for people with disabilities.

Meanwhile, in York, a widely shared video shows a North Yorkshire Police officer threatening a Deliveroo courier with arrest if he did not give his details. As Lochlinn Parker, the head of civil liberties at ITN Solicitors noted, there are few police powers that legally require a person to hand over their details and the Coronavirus Act did not grant new stop and search powers.

However Harvey Redgrave, the chief executive of the think tank that has consistently claimed broad public support for the policing of the restrictions on movement – despite a third of respondents to its regular surveys saying the police have gone too far – has insisted that “It’s all too easy to criticise the policing of the lockdown”.

SURVEILLANCE

Redgrave is a senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, which this week has been arguing a major increase in state surveillance is a price worth paying to beat Covid-19. It argues that “the price of [an] escape route is an unprecedented increase in digital surveillance”. Among the series of recommendations the think tank’s report explores are “cross-referencing” data from healthcare systems and private companies in “real-time” and sharing anonymised patient data.

COMMENT

What happens as we move away from ‘stay-at-home’ policies but stop a larger second wave of infection? David Murukami Wood says that the answer isn’t surveillance & restriction but increasing people’s right to the city.

Daniel Weinstock also says ‘stay at home’ cannot be the solution. It exacerbates inequality, and in any case is probably only achievable given a massive uptake in surveillance and coercion by the state, and snitching“.

In the Better Human podcast (episode 23) – Coronavirus and human rights 28 days later – barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nichola Higgins and academics Aoife Nolan and Judith Bueno De Mesquita discuss the International dimension of the crisis, the healthcare response and the lockdown.

RESOURCES

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition: Police State, Community Health, and Contact Tracing in Time of COVID, watch online event here. The Coalition has a zine as well. They just had a bit of a victory: The Los Angeles Police Department is Dumping A Controversial Predictive Policing Tool because of the coronavirus pandemic. PredPol is one of the oldest and most controversial predictive policing companies.

FORTHCOMING

Coronavirus and Human Rights: Policing, Surveillance and Detention in a Pandemic: on 12 May, the Human Rights Law Association is holding an online event with Doughty Street Chamber’s Kirsty Brimelow, Chris Buttler of Matrix Chambers and Hannah Couchman from Liberty. It starts at 4pm. Eventbrite tickets.

Next Trans National Institute webinar will examine authoritarian and repressive state responses to #COVID19. With UN Special Rapporteur on Protecting Human Rights Fionnuala Ni Aolain, author/researcher Arun Kundnani and Maria Paz Canales of the Digital Rights campaign. Registration and more info here.

April 24 – 26, 2020

POLICING

Over the weekend, there were the now-familiar stories about senior police officers urging people to stay home and as many reported incidents of atrocious driving on Britain’s roads as there were about fines for lockdown infringements.

In Widnes in Cheshire, police using closure order powers at a home where there had been repeated warnings about breaches of lockdown regulations and anti-social behaviour. This makes it a criminal offence for anyone other than the tenant to visit the property for up to three months. This power was not created by new coronavirus legislation, but under section 43 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

In Liverpool, mayor Joe Anderson described sunbathers in parks as “an insult to those who have lost their lives and to the brave, hard-working NHS staff who are under immense pressure.” However, as the Huffington Post has noted, “The headlines would have you believe Britain is a nation of rule-flouting “Covidiots”. But the UK’s compliance with lockdown measures has been predominantly positive, with concern about the virus at the forefront of most people’s minds in the weeks since it began”.

Legal blogger David Allen Green has highlighted that “the significant extension of the coronavirus regulations this week was not covered by mainstream media”. As covered here last week, current guidelines have been extended to read, “during the emergency period, no person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

The changes were slipped out quietly and so few noticed that the list of “reasonable excuses” for leaving your home had not been amended, meaning that whilst travelling to work is a reasonable excuse, remaining there once you have arrived is not. It means as Green remarked, that “the world-class lawyers at the Home Office have managed – under the guise of “clarification” – to make it necessary to imply things into the law. The very opposite of “clarification”.

It is perhaps surprising, therefore, that police union representatives have accused the government of giving out mixed messages to the public over the coronavirus lockdown and called for “clear and unambiguous laws, guidance and communication” from ministers around what people “can and can’t do”.

Meanwhile, however, officers have continued to use their powers in ways that seem completely arbitrary, including hassling a physically distancing busker – who was technically at work – in a street in Manchester. In Dorset, the local force continues its own unique interpretation of lockdown laws and regulations.

In London, police were caught on camera unlawfully arresting someone for refusing to give their personal details.

Elsewhere, there have been two outcomes of the ‘reporting breaches of lockdown culture’ that the police were so eager to promote in the early days of the implementation of restrictions. Firstly, they are warning rural vigilantes not to take the law into their own hands over reports of angry residents blocking roads and confronting cyclists. Meanwhile, in Scotland, police in East Lothian have actively urged locals to stop reporting breaches of lockdown restrictions.

In the north of Ireland, for 48 hours up until Saturday morning, any PSNI officer intending to issue a fine for any breach of coronavirus restrictions was required to first seek approval of a senior officer, in order to review how this power has been used. It is unclear, as yet, what conclusions have been drawn from this review.

SURVEILLANCE

Coronavirus is causing the “creeping” expansion of intrusive surveillance techniques, campaigners have warned.

COMMENT

#DemocracyInLockdownAre civil liberties being curtailed by new policing powers? Are different communities being treated equally? A new podcast weekly series from Unlock Democracy

April 27 – 29, 2020

POLICING

Campaigners from Big Brother Watch have published its first monthly “Emergency Powers & Civil Liberties” review [PDF], which is aimed at members of Parliament. The 91-page report reveals what it calls “staggering incompetence in police use of emergency laws – including wrongful convictions” and “a postcode lottery of pandemic policing that’s inconsistent and often heavy-handed”.

Coverage by The Times [paywall] highlights the case of a teenager in England was wrongly convicted under emergency powers applicable only in Wales. Thames Valley Police have now agreed this was wrong and intend to have the conviction withdrawn, although it is alarming that the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and a District Judge all managed to interpret the law completely incorrectly.

If the stories highlighted by this blog have a common theme, it is how emergency police powers are routinely interpreted in public order rather than public health terms, with little evidence that decisions are made with health promotion or disease prevention benefits in mind.

Over the last two days, we have seen further examples of this. Despite revised national guidance saying you can drive to take exercise, Dorset Police is still interpreting measures intended to protect public health as though they are about maintaining public order – warning people not to travel to beauty spots.

The force claims its advice is that everyone should avoid driving if possible “to reduce risks and ease pressure on emergency services” but this narrow interpretation of what is “reasonable” could apply to almost anything that we as members of the public do – and for Bedfordshire Police, this includes handling books.

Police ordered a Luton woman to remove a free books stall from her garden after a complaint. She told her local newspaper, “I was quite annoyed and I made the point that there had been burglaries and a shop break-in, but police were coming after me over some books in the garden!”

For Norfolk Police, the “risk” is from a man going for a walk wearing a medieval plague doctor outfit: police want to talk to him to offer “words of advice”, even though they acknowledge that no offences have been committed.

In Hampshire, the risk allegedly came from a couple and their three-year-old feeding some ducks while on their daily walk.

Meanwhile, police and health authorities in the north of Ireland have said they are “deeply concerned” that people wanting to know what their rights actually are could encourage them to ignore official advice.

In North Yorkshire, which had promised it would maintain a tough stance despite revisions to national guidelines, managed to issue 61 fines in one weekend. This included 17 fines issued in the village of Malham alone – with 13 being written in an hour.

There are some signs that planning is already underway for the aftermath of the lockdown and as we have seen during the current period, it takes a largely negative and distrustful approach to the public.

In the West Midlands, the Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has said the force is planning for a huge increase in crime in June and July and that he had “serious concerns that thousands of young men across the region will find themselves jobless”.

In South Yorkshire Police, meanwhile, has drawn from specialist riot units and members of its serious violent crime team to set up a new pandemic ‘taskforce’.

Meanwhile, Lancashire Police is the latest force to launch an online tool so people can denounce their neighbours for alleged coronavirus lockdown infractions.

SURVEILLANCE

If a leak to the NewStatesman is correct then Palantir, a company that has close relationships with US intelligence agencies is ‘charging’ the NHS just £1 for its coronavirus data deal. This raises questions about what business advantage Palantir is gaining and what the terms of patient data access and use are.

In the US, tech company Clearview AI says it’s in talks with federal and state agencies to track COVID-19 using facial recognition, despite the lack of a clear scientific basis for any benefit from this surveillance technology.

COMMENT

The increasing visibility of Britain’s police state. ‘Alison’, one of the women who was tricked into a relationship with an undercover officer and who now works for the support group Police Spies Out of Lives looks at the need to continue campaigning in these unprecedented times.

Boris Johnson’s police state won’t solve the coronavirus crisis’, Malia Bouattia, The New Arab.

RESOURCES

Liberty has updated its advice & information hub to include emergency police powers.

April 30 – May 1, 2020

POLICING

Checking people’s reasons for being on the streets, South Yorkshire Police went as far as warning people for “saunter in jeans as exercise“, a “visit the shop for egg custard” and a “trip to the cash machine for 20,- to use in the morning”. The online backlash this caused forced the police to apologise next day and take down the post.

Police close down family string quartet playing classical music for their neighbours claiming they are breaking coronavirus lockdown rules. Rafael Todes, 53, had been performing with his family outside his property in Bayswater, London, for six weeks. This week police officers arrived to his street and said the music may encourage residents to gather on road. The musical family had been playing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No4 in the front garden when stopped. The piece was written by Shostakovich during the time he was scared that he would be arrested by Stalin’s men. (article includes video of the incident)

Police in Brent found someone sleeping in a park, and used a picture of him to go with their ‘Please stay at home’ message on social media. They didn’t disguise his face, and were critised for shaming someone who may have been homeless or collapsed – he certainly was not sunning himself.

A junior doctor was fined £60 for exercising on the 29th. Police refused to identify themselves by name or badge number. ‘Repeatedly stepped within 2m of me and threatened to “seize my phone”.’

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) say the police have received 194,000 calls “snitching” on people alleged to have broken the coronavirus lockdown, and say the draconian measures are getting harder to for people to observe the longer they go on. Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, has said he would not snitch on his neighbours: “No, I don’t think I would do. But I’m not going to pass judgement on other people and what they’re choosing to do. It’s become apparent to me that the lockdown is harder for different people that others.”

Police issue almost 9000 fines for alleged coronavirus lockdown breaches in England. The numbers are increasing: in the two weeks to 13 April, which included the long Easter weekend, 4,152 fines were issued in England alone, and in the next fortnight there were 4,725 fines.

NPCC figures show a postcode lottery of enforcementThe Guardian wrote. Thames Valley police recorded the highest number of fines, 649, while the biggest force, the Met in London, issued 634. Warwickshire issued 22 fines, the fewest of any force. Dorset issued 116 but next door in Devon and Cornwall there were 510 fines. Rather than a lottery, these numbers show a huge difference in the approach of enforcing the lockdown.

Don’t forget meanwhile that “the vast majority of people in the UK are obeying the lockdown rules – not because they have been ordered to by the government but because they don’t want to catch or spread the virus”.

Lancashire Police withdrew Coronavirus fixed penalty notices (FPNs) that were wrongly issued under the lockdown to Shazia Zahieer and Tayyba Arif (represented by Bindmans). On 30 March 2020, left the house for a short drive to the Riverside Docks in Preston, so they could take a stroll and get some fresh air whilst adhering to ‘social distancing’ guidelines. At the docks, they were approached by police officers and, despite explaining why they were there, fined under the Health Protection Regulations 2020. However, the Regulations include a long, non-exhaustive list of what are reasonable excuses for a person to leave the place where they are living, including the need “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”.

The Lancashire police that had already gained notoriety for issuing more FPNs than any other in the first three weeks of lockdown, and for having to apologise after one of its officers threatened to make up evidence against a member of the public, has now confirmed it will not be taking further enforcement action against Bindmans’ clients.

If you have received a fine and are unhappy about the reasons why it was issued – make sure you appeal! The London Campaign against Police and State Violence offers support to people in South London with challenging such fines. Email: lcapsv.AT.gmail.com. Also @StopWatchUK Legal Group – made up of lawyers and academics – provide legal advice.

Recently local couriers were issued with £50 fines by North Yorkshire Police for carrying out deliveries by bicycle, in the city centre. These fines can be an entire day’s wage. Couriers had been told by both council and police staff that they were allowed to cycle in the otherwise restricted area during lockdown because enforcement had been relaxed.

On the 18th April, IWGB member Ethan Bradley was mishandled and threatened with arrest by a PSCO who wasn’t wearing PPE, potentially exposing Ethan, and the public, to the virus. After a public backlash, a letter of support from York Central MP Rachel Maskell and extensive media coverage, North Yorkshire Police and the City of York Council have resorted to claiming restrictions were never lifted and shifting responsibility onto one another. As this is completely unacceptable, they have now set up a petition to demand york police & council to rescind the fines and give them city centre access.

ISLE OF MAN

BigBrotherWatch zoomed in on the situation on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency. The local government has introduced a flurry of secondary legislation in response to COVID-19, under the Emergency Powers Act 1936. Recent reports by the BBC, the Guardian and Isle of Man Today paint an alarming picture of excessive policing and enforcement responses to breaches of these regulations, including the drastic step of imprisonment.

As of April 24, the Isle police have arrested over 40 people in a two-week period for breaching COVID-19 regulations. At least four people have been jailed. The examples clearly show that vulnerable members of the community experience the brunt of enhanced police powers.

REVIEW OF THE LOCKDOWN

Adam Wagner continues his discussion of the recent, non-debated and unscrutinised changes to the lockdown regulations (which were themselves non-debated and unscrutinised), stating: ‘It is unsatisfactory to have a criminal law which (1) depends entirely on intention of a person for being outside their house (2) penalises having the wrong intention (3) which can change in an instant, (4) penalties depend on what police officer “considers” a person is thinking.’ Which does remind Wagener of judicial criticisms of protest injunctions which rely entirely on a person’s intention, which can change, to define a potentially criminal act (contempt). 

On Monday, Parliament has just 2 hours to debate the Lockdown Regulations for the first time. Big Brother Watch sent a copy of their briefing to every MP – question is, will they they speak in the debate?

SURVEILLANCE

Essential thread on #COVID19, by the Institute of Race Relations. Trevor Phillips and Richard Webber’s coding technology will be used for the inquiry on the disproportionate impact of #coronavirus on black and brown communities. This same coding is used by police forces to profile individuals & communities.

More than 170 scientists and researchers working in the UK in the fields of information security and privacy made a joint statement about the contact tracing app developed by NHSX in the UK:

RESOURCES

Netpol’s coordinator @copwatcher has been interviewed by @MElmaazi on recent changes to coronavirus regulations, the policing of the pandemic in Britain and fears about what happens next when the immediate crisis starts to recede.

The recording of TNI’s webinar of last Wednesday’s States of Control: Dark side of pandemic politics is now publicly available and shareable.

SOCIOLOGIST OF CRISIS: INSIDE THE COVID-19 STATE: PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH THROUGH LAW ENFORCEMENT

The rise of technologically-mediated police contact: the potential consequences of ‘socially-distanced policing’. By Dr Helen Wells, Dr Liz Aston, Dr Megan O’Neill and Professor Ben Bradford in BSC Policing Network, Connecting Policing Researchers In The UK And Beyond.
And more interesting articles such as Police discretion and the coronavirus pandemic, by Dr. Liz Turner and Dr. Mike Rowe.

To read new updates go to: https://policing-the-corona-state.blog/



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