Police Powers During Coronavirus: What You Need To Know


31 March 2020

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

The College of Policing has issued guidance to the Police Force in order to respond to Covid 19. The guidance splits the regulations into (1)Individuals, affecting movement and gatherings and (2) Premises and Business

These powers relate to England and Wales only. The Fixed Penalty Notice does not apply to anyone under the age of 18. The police are to consider the personal safety of an individual and consider whether it is safe for them to return home and non-compliance is not a recordable offence.

Policing is to adopt a four-stage approach to:

Engage – to encourage compliance on a voluntary basis.

Explain – Officers will educate as to why there's a risk to the NHS, Public health

Encourage – Officers will discuss the necessity of the reasons to stay home and why this action supports our NHS and keeps the most vulnerable safe.

Enforce – Officers can instruct and return an individual to their home using reasonable force where required where it is reasonable and proportionate to do so, taking into consideration whether it is in fact safe for that person to return home.

Enforcement is the last resort, and the Police have come under pressure in the media. The changes are new and each force is adopting their own approach to the rules. Some forces have been accused of being overzealous, others have been accused of simply not doing enough to stop social gatherings.

Individuals, Affecting Movement and Gatherings

Police can instruct gatherings of three or more people to disperse or remove any person from that gathering to their home.

Anyone outdoors without a valid reason may be committing an offence, and will face a fine. For those continuing to disregard these requirements, they can face further fines or a summary conviction.

If a fine is paid, there is no criminal offence committed. The Police do not seek to criminalise people, but to ensure people follow this life-saving guidance.

Police can issue a fixed-penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days. Police can then issue a fixed-penalty notice of £120 for second-time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence. Refusal to pay will lead to proceedings in the Magistrates Court. The penalty is an unlimited fine.

◾A record is not required on force record management system

◾Forces will register any PND's administered by Officers and Staff on PENTIP

◾Biometrics are not required to be taken

Premises and Business

Enforcement of these closures or restrictions will be through service of a prohibition notice (Reg.8(2)).

Personal Safety

Police will continue to follow the Public Health England guidance for first responders who may come into close contact with symptomatic people with potential Covid-19. Police are to use the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that the police force has provided.

We hope that due to public unity this enforcement will not be necessary in the Essex Area. However, should you receive a Penalty notice or be prosecuted then we are able to provide you with further advice and deal with any Court Proceedings on your behalf.

For more information…

Contact our Criminal Law team

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.