The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 – how the criminal law is being used to give effect to the Prime Minister’s directions on the restriction of movement
At 13:00 on 26th March 2020 the above Regulations came into force, creating criminal offences to assist the Government in its fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. The Regulations give criminal force to the Prime Minister’s directions issued on Monday 23rd March 2020. Those people who flout the Regulations during the emergency period can be prosecuted.
The Regulations have the effect of:
• Closing some premises and businesses during the Coronavirus emergency (including pubs, cinemas and restaurants);
• Restricting the movement of people, who may only leave where they live with reasonable excuse; and
• Restricting gatherings to no more than two people (unless limited exceptions apply e.g. members of the same household being outside together, going to work or attending a funeral).
The enforcement of the Regulations falls principally to the police and the tool by which the Regulations will be enforced, for the most part, will be on-the-spot fines. Prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court is possible where those convicted of offences can receive unlimited fines. Such a conviction will result in a person having a criminal record.
Businesses and those personnel in positions of “real authority” within a business can also commit offences under the Regulations.
Businesses should already be considering how they can comply with their general health and safety obligations in the current emergency (which may include preparing coronavirus-specific risk assessments). Now they must also factor in the requirements in these Regulations to ensure they are not unwittingly causing employees to commit criminal offences, and thus potentially committing criminal offences themselves. Construction companies, for example, might consider whether they are creating “gatherings” by having multiple staff in one place, which they are only permitted to do in very limited circumstances.
The Regulations will be reviewed for the first time by 16th April. In any event they will expire on 26th September 2020, if they are not revoked before.
Please do not hesitate to contact Lee Hughes via his clerk, David Wright (email@example.com), if you require further advice or information.