Coronavirus

Increased fines and mass confusion is a recipe for injustice

Posted on 12 May 2020

  • Criminal justice still prioritised in response to pandemic
  • Heavier fines and greater confusion a recipe for injustice, warns human rights group
  • Powers enforcing lockdown introduced without parliament review

Liberty has criticised the Government for doubling down on blunt policing powers despite changes to the lockdown rules.

The Government released updated regulations today including increased fines for breaching the coronavirus lockdown.

This new version of the regulations have not received parliamentary scrutiny because they replace the original policing regulations – which have been in place for seven weeks – hours after they were debated in parliament.

These new regulations are an updated version of powers introduced on 26 March to enforce the initial lockdown. Since then, there have been numerous, well-publicised instances of overzealous policing, as well as examples of police forces acting beyond the scope of these powers.

Clare Collier, Liberty’s Advocacy Director, said: “When it introduced the lockdown, the Government rushed through broad new powers that resulted in heavy-handed policing at a time of severe anxiety for all of us. It’s concerning that now, when they have finally received parliamentary oversight, the Government elects to replace these powers. It’s a blatant evasion of parliamentary process.

“Instead of narrowing those sweeping powers, the Government is ramping up fines for falling foul of the lockdown. Doing so while its own unclear communications cause confusion over what is and isn’t allowed is a recipe for injustice.

“This pandemic is a public health crisis – not a criminal justice issue. The Government has had seven weeks to fix the police powers and create a rights-focused strategy that provides care for those at risk. Instead, with these regulations it is doubling down on a heavy-handed approach that will undermine public trust and cause lasting harm to people’s lives. The powers must be rolled back, and far greater clarity provided to enable all of us to understand what we can and can’t do.”

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