New regulations concerning the current Coronavirus pandemic came into force at 1:00pm on 26th March
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020
These regulations close certain businesses, allow other businesses to continue, restrict the movement and gathering of persons in public and give constables, PCSOs and other public officials powers of enforcement including the issue of fixed penalty notices which escalate with repeat offending. It is an offence to breach the regulations and the power of arrest has been extended so that the ‘necessity’ test for offences under this regulation includes maintaining public health and maintaining public order. Officers can use reasonable force to remove persons breaching the regulations on movement and gathering.
These came into force at 1.00 pm on 26th March 2020. They revoke the business closure regulations that came into force earlier in the week but for the most part repeat and extend them. Prosecutions for breaches of the old regulations can continue.
The Secretary of State must review them every 21 days with the first review on 16th April but they remain in force until he revokes them. They will expire in six months time.
Closure of places selling food and drink for consumption on the premises, other businesses where people congregate in large numbers, non essential shops, hotels, community centres and places of worship.
As before, businesses selling food or drink for consumption on the premises must stop doing so and close premises or parts of premises used for in-house consumption. As before takeaway services can still operate. The relevant businesses as before are restaurants (including hotel and club restaurants), cafes (workplace canteens can stay open where there is no practical alternative for staff to obtain food – this is a change from the earlier regulations ; cafes in hospitals, care homes or schools, prisons or those used by the armed forces or providing services to the homeless can all stay open), bars (including bars in hotels and clubs) and public houses.
The following must cease trading subject to certain exceptions. The businesses are:- cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, bingo halls, concert halls, museums and galleries, casinos, betting shops, spas, nail/beauty/hair salons/barbers, massage parlours, tattoo and piercing parlours, skating rinks, indoor fitness areas/gyms swimming pools, soft play areas, leisure centre etc.., funfairs, playgrounds, outdoor sports courts and gyms, outdoor markets except stalls selling food, car showrooms and auction houses.
Broadcasts or performance by radio, television or internet are permitted for cinemas, theatres, bingo halls, concert halls, museums and galleries.
All other business offering goods for sale or hire in a shop or library services must also cease trading except through websites, telephone and post. They must close and not admit persons. The exceptions which may stay open are food takeaways, off licences, pharmacies, newsagents, homeware/building supply/hardware shops, petrol stations, car repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, taxi/vehicle hire businesses, banks etc…, post offices, funeral directors, launderettes/dry cleaners, dental services/opticians and related health type services, vets and pet shops, agricultural supply shops, car parks and public toilets.
Holiday accommodation including hotels, B&Bs and campsites must cease trading but can stay open for a few exceptions including where people have nowhere else to go or need to attend a funeral.
Places of worship must close except for funerals, broadcast of services and essential voluntary services – foodbanks and support for the homeless and vulnerable.
Community centres must close except for essential voluntary services.
Restrictions on movements
People cannot leave the place they are living without reasonable excuse which includes:- to obtain basic necessities including food and medical supplies, to exercise either alone or with members of their household, to seek medical assistance, to provide care and assistance to a vulnerable person, to travel to work or to attend a funeral. Contact by separated parents with children living in separate households is permitted.
Restrictions on gatherings
Gatherings of more than two persons in a public place are prohibited except where all the persons are of the same household, it is essential for work purposes, to attend a funeral, to provide care and assistance for a vulnerable person or certain other limited exceptions such as moving house.
Relevant persons - a constable, PCSO, person designated by a local authority or person designated by the Secretary of State can take necessary actions to enforce the closure of businesses and restrictions on gatherings. The enforcement powers of local authority officials are limited to the closure of businesses so they don’t apply to the restrictions on movement given below. Relevant persons can take the following steps:
Prohibition notices can be issued for the closure of businesses;
Where a person is outside the place where they are living in contravention of the regulations they may be directed or removed to their home and reasonable force can be used to do that;
A person with responsibility for a child can be directed to take the child to the place where they are living;
Where a child repeatedly fails to comply with restrictions on movements the person with responsibility can be directed to take reasonable steps to ensure the child’s compliance;
Where three or more persons are gathered together in a public place the relevant person can (a) Direct them to disperse; (b) Direct them to return to the place where they are living; and (c) Remove them to the place they are living and once again reasonable force can be used.
A person who without reasonable excuse contravenes the regulations closing businesses, restricting the size of gatherings or the enforcement measures commits an offence;
A person who contravenes the restrictions on movement commits an offence. NB - reasonable excuse is left out of the definition of this offence because the regulation says you can leave your house with reasonable excuse – so repetition is not necessary.
Obstruction without reasonable excuse of a person carrying out a function under these regulations is an offence;
The necessity test justifying arrests is extended for offences under these regulations to include (a) maintaining public health; and (b) Maintaining public order.
The offences can lead to summary conviction and fines.
Fixed penalty notices
A constable, PCSO, person designated by a local authority or person designated by the Secretary of State may issue fixed penalty notices to anyone over the age of 18 who they reasonably believe has committed an offence. The power of the local authority officer is restricted to offences concerning the closure of businesses and does not extend to the movement of persons. The regulations give guidance on the form of the fixed penalty notice. The fine is £60 for a first offence (£30 if paid within 14 days), £120 for a second and doubling for subsequent offences to a maximum of £960. Prosecutions remain an option.
Article and information shared from Weightmans for the purpose of advice