Liberty calls for more support to help people through second lockdown

Posted on 04 Nov 2020

The Government should help people rather than threatening them with criminalisation and continuing to undermine their rights.

  • More support needed to help people follow guidance, not fines and criminalisation
  • Parliament approved lockdown but new laws will end after four weeks, with another chance to make urgent changes
  • Safeguarding human rights integral to an effective public health strategy

Liberty has called for more support to help people follow public health guidance after Parliament voted to impose a second lockdown across England.

Today, MPs approved laws for a month-long lockdown, and Liberty urged the Government to help people rather than threaten them with criminalisation and continuing to undermine their rights.

The law comes with a firm four-week time limit, which Liberty called for to ensure that any extension is debated and scrutinised.

Liberty also welcomed exemptions to the restrictions for homeless people, but repeated calls for regulations to respect the right to protest, and for greater protections for the most marginalised, including migrants who are put at risk by the Hostile Environment.

Liberty’s Interim Director Gracie Bradley said: “We all want a pandemic response we can trust, and to be able to comply with public health guidance that protects us, our loved ones and our communities. But by emphasising criminal justice, while failing to support people, the Government risks creating a cycle of heavy-handed enforcement and disintegrating goodwill. It needs to ensure people can safely follow guidance, including isolating or not working when necessary.

“Limiting our right to protest is a dangerous signal of the Government’s attitude toward dissent. This right must be protected, never more so than now, when the Government is restricting our liberties so significantly.”

“Liberty will continue to scrutinise the effects of this legislation. The Government must not wait for the flaws of this strategy to put people at risk, but act now to build a public health strategy that we can trust, and reduces the risk of significant restrictions on our freedom over the coming months.”

On 31 October, the Prime Minister announced plans for a month-long second lockdown. Liberty wrote to him setting out 17 urgent measures to learn the lessons of the last lockdown and ensure the second does not undermine our rights.

After the lockdown regulations were published on 3 November, Liberty sent a briefing to all MPs setting out serious concerns with the legislation, which it said should be fixed before the rules come into force.

Liberty’s recommendations are based on evidence that safeguarding human rights and civil liberties is integral to protecting public health, and the experience of the first lockdown has proven that we cannot try to police our way out of a pandemic.

Liberty has therefore called for more support for people so that they can comply with the lockdown and isolation rules, rather than being fined or criminalised. These include:

  • All self-isolating workers should receive full sick pay, and ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ workers should receive full sick pay if they can’t work from home.
  • People must not lose their homes.
  • Local authorities must have the funding to maintain or enhance their social care provision.
  • Charging migrants for NHS services must stop, as well as data-sharing for immigration enforcement purposes, and the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule should be suspended.
  • Additional police enforcement powers should be minimal.

The human rights organisation also repeated criticism of the Government for removing provisions that allow gatherings for protests, which it said threatens to criminalise people for exercising this fundamental right.

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