New law is biggest restriction on our freedom in a generation

Posted on 26 Mar 2020

  • New powers of detention
  • Lower care standards and vital safeguards removed
  • Powers could be in place for more than two years

Liberty will be closely monitoring and scrutinising a new law brought in as part of the Government’s response to COVID-19.

Analysis of the legislation, which was passed yesterday (25 March 2020), shows that despite the six-month sunset clause, some of these powers could remain in place for longer. The new law also gives Government the power to renew any part of this legislation for up to six months.

Given that Public Health England doesn’t expect this crisis to extend beyond spring 2021, it’s deeply worrying that these powers could be invoked beyond two years.

Liberty’s Director Martha Spurrier said: “This new law is without doubt the biggest restriction on our individual and collective freedoms in a generation.

“What people may not realise is the extent of its powers, and how long they can be in place for.

“It gives the authorities new powers to detain any one of us that they believe could be infected with the coronavirus.

“It also removes vital safeguards in care standards, leaving many people who are already at risk, such as disabled people, at further risk, not only of poor care but also of potentially inhumane treatment.

‘While change is necessary, and some of the measures outlined in this legislation are entirely sensible, others are overbearing and, if left unchecked, could create more problems than they solve.

“The breadth of this legislation is also extraordinary. It runs to more than 300 pages and includes some spectacular restrictions, including powers to rearrange or cancel elections.

“We’ll beat this virus, but these measures must be a last resort in that battle and these powers must be removed as soon as possible. We cannot and must not sacrifice all of our hard-won rights and freedoms.”

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