THE EVER-CHANGING WORLD OF ‘LOCKDOWN’ AND CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS/REGULATIONSHolly Clegg
Yesterday, 26 March 2020 at 13:00 The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (No. 350) came into force in England.
There are a number of strict provisions within these new regulations and breaching them amounts to a criminal offence punishable with a fine. The provisions set out the requirements of closing premises and businesses, restrictions on movement and gatherings along with enforcement powers that are available during the emergency period.
At the time of writing this article these are the most up-to-date regulations, replacing the previous ones made on 21 March 2020. They are due to be in force for 6 months, however they are evolving rapidly as the situation unfolds.
Regulation 11 states that prosecutions for a breach of these Regulations can be brought by the CPS and anyone else designated by the Secretary of State.
The Regulations empower police officers and other ‘relevant people’ to take any action necessary to enforce the restrictions they impose, including using reasonable force, if necessary (Regulation 8).
A person who breaches these regulations commits an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine (Regulation 9) and fixed penalty notices can be issued under these regulations (Regulation 10).
The fine will be £60 (or £30 if paid within 14 days of the first fixed penalty notice). The amount of the fine increases significantly with each subsequent breach and the maximum fine is £960 (Regulation 10(7)(b)). Our dedicated regulatory team at PSQB are able to assist with any queries/cases that you or your clients may have relating to prosecutions under these regulations. We have a large team and members conduct both prosecution and defence work. We are still at hand to assist remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak and in the future when this is all over.
IMPORTANT RESTRICTIONS TO NOTE:
Restrictions on Movement and court attendance:
‘Lockdown’ for most people means staying at home for the foreseeable future unless we have a ‘reasonable excuse’. It’s fair to say that there has been some confusion on social media and in the news about what amounts to a ‘reasonable excuse’. These new Regulations provide a list of ‘reasonable excuses’ at Regulation 6. An important item on the list that will effect us lawyers is Regulation 6(2)(h) “For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need… to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings”.
HMCTS are issuing regular updates and guidance across all Jurisdictions and therefore if you or your clients have any upcoming court commitments it is best to contact the court in advance to ensure that you are following the correct protocol.
With the exception of those listed in Schedule 2, Part 3, the majority of businesses are required close during the emergency period. Any business or body corporate breaching these restrictions will face prosecution.
Food and drink
Businesses selling food and drink for consumption on their premises are required to close (Regulation 4(1)). A full list of businesses subject to these restrictions are set out in Schedule 2 parts 1 & 2. The list includes cafés, bars and restaurants and will include most work canteens, except those at hospitals, care homes, school, prisons or homeless shelters. Businesses offering take away services (including hotel room service) will be allowed to continue, provided the food is taken off the premises (Regulation 4(1)(b) & 5(2))
Businesses providing holiday accommodation such as hotels, hostels and caravan parks must also stop business during the emergency period (Regulation 5(3)). However there is a short list of exceptions to allow for the provision of accommodation for people who have nowhere else to go (Regulation 5(4)).
Contact the Regulatory & Public Law Clerks
Our dedicated Clerks and Barristers are all working hard at this difficult time to ensure as many court hearings as possible continue to run and that our clients are kept well informed. If you require any assistance contact one of our dedicated regulatory & public clerks.