Consideration of the penalties for breaching ‘lockdown’ in England. As of one minute past midnight on Thursday 5 November, people in England are now prohibited from leaving their homes without a reasonable excuse.
This restriction, together with various other measures banning gatherings of two or more people, as well as mandating the closure of certain businesses, is included in the captivatingly-titled ‘The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020’ which reflects the current, consolidated ‘lockdown law’ for England.
The context of these Regulations requires no explanation here, given the well-known background to their introduction in the midst of a public health crisis. They are only valid for 28 days and it is right to observe that the scope for having a reasonable excuse is potentially broad. It includes at least thirteen detailed exceptions specified within the legislation– allowing people to visit supermarkets, take exercise and co-parent across separate households, amongst other things.
But what exactly is the position of those who fail to comply with these new legal obligations and do not have a reasonable excuse? What can be expected if they are caught?
PENALTIES – WARNINGS AND DIRECTIONS
The Enforcement provisions are contained in Regulation 19, which grants police officers, PCSOs and other individuals in designated positions, powers to issue a range of directions and instructions to those thought to be in breach, where it is deemed necessary and proportionate to do so. These powers permit those authorised individuals to give directions for people to return home, to disperse if in a gathering and even for people to take action to ensure the compliance of any children in their custody.
Beyond mere verbal warnings or directions, authorised individuals are also permitted to use reasonable force to remove people from unlawful gatherings. They can also issue businesses with prohibition notices.
Inevitably, these powers will be used in appropriate circumstances to resolve minor matter conveniently and will not lead to any further immediate penalty action. That said, where unsuccessful or inappropriate, the Regulations also contain more robust enforcement measures of the provisions, including criminal prosecution.
|Offence||No. of Issue||Sum Payable|
Any offence under the Regulations – except organisation of a relevant gathering or a business restriction offence.
First (if paid within 14 days)
First (after 14 days)
Organising/facilitating a relevant gathering.
First and subsequent
Business restriction offence.