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Police Powers of Entry to Your Home During COVID: Updated Regulations

The government has recently introduced a new system of ‘Local COVID alert levels’ in England. These local alert levels consist of three tiers – 1 medium, 2 high, and 3 very high.

This system has seen different parts of the country placed into different categories depending on the rates of infection, with the areas with the highest infection rate facing the toughest restrictions. These new regulations have confused many people who are unsure of what they can and cannot do under their local rules.

Below we have put together a guide of everything you need to know about the new coronavirus regulations, police powers of entry to your home and your legal rights in relation to this.

 

What is the three-tier system?

New Three Tier Traffic-Light Social Distancing Lockdown System Explained By An Infographic Vector Sign of the UK Map with red, orange and green colours

 

Local alert levels are broken into 3 tiers and the below rules will detail what rules apply depending on what tier your local area is in.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 14th October 2020. The below rules are subject to the exceptions including members of the same household or members of linked households (a household linked with another household which comprises of one adult, or one adult and one or more persons who were under the age of 18 on 12th June 2020, if all adult members of the second household agree and neither households are linked with other households).

 

Tier 3 restrictions (COVID level: very high)

Bright red COVID lockdown banner which reads "Tier 3 Very High Alert"

Tier 3 restrictions are in place in areas with very high levels of infections and are therefore the tightest restrictions. These restrictions can vary though dependent on discussions between central and local government. Areas should only be at this level for 28 days and then a review should take place.

For areas where Tier 3 restrictions are in place, the regulations are as follows:

Gatherings indoor and in private dwellings

You cannot participate in a gathering which consists of two or more people in a private dwelling or in any indoor space.

You must not socialise with anybody you do not live with or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or any private gardens or at most outdoor venues or ticketed events.

Outdoor Gathering

You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach (that requires no payment), a public garden or sports venue.

A gathering is reasonably necessary and is permitted if it is for work purposes; education or training purposes and for some childcare arrangement purposes.

A gathering of no more than 15 people is permitted for a marriage or civil partnership and a gathering of no more than 30 people is permitted for a funeral but must take place in premises other than a private dwelling.

Businesses

Pubs and bars are required to close unless alcohol is only served as part of a table meal. Businesses and venues such as nightclubs; casinos; and betting shops are to close.

 

Tier 2 restrictions (COVID level: high)

Bright orange banner with the text "Tier 2 High Alert"

 

Tier 2 restrictions are in place in areas with high levels of coronavirus infections. There are additional restrictions in place than in tier 1 areas, but these restrictions are not as strict as in Tier 3 areas. The alert level in tier 2 is reviewed every 14 days and the rules and regulations are reviewed every 28 days.

For areas where Tier 2 restrictions are in place, the regulations are as follows:

Gatherings indoor and in private dwellings

You cannot participate in a gathering which consists of two or more people in a private dwelling or in any indoor space.

You must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.

Outdoor Gathering

You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people in an outdoor public space including in a garden or other space, like beaches or parks.

A gathering is reasonably necessary and is permitted if it is for work purposes; education or training purposes and for some childcare arrangement purposes.

A gathering of no more than 15 people is permitted for a marriage or civil partnership and a gathering of no more than 30 people is permitted for a funeral but must take place in premises other than a private dwelling.

Businesses

Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner (some subject to a 10pm curfew), other than businesses such as nightclubs or venues that open at night that has a dance floor or space for dancing and provides music.

 

Tier 1 exceptions (COVID level: medium)

Yellow COVID lockdown banner with the text "Tier 2 Medium Alert"

 

Tier 1 restrictions are for areas where the national restrictions continue to be in place. In tier 1 the regulations are reviewed every 28 days.

Gatherings indoor and in private dwellings

You cannot participate in a gathering which consists of more than 6 people in a private dwelling or in any indoor space.

Outdoor Gathering

You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people in an outdoor public space including in a garden or other space, like beaches or parks.

A gathering of more than 6 people, is reasonably necessary and is permitted if it is for work purposes; education or training purposes and for some childcare arrangement purposes.

A gathering of no more than 15 people is permitted for a marriage or civil partnership and a gathering of no more than 30 people is permitted for a funeral but must take place in premises other than a private dwelling.

Businesses

Businesses and venues can continue to operate (some subject to a 10pm curfew), in a COVID-secure manner, other than businesses such as nightclubs or venues that open at night which has a dance floor or space for dancing and provides music.

 

Do these restrictions affect everyone?

Every local area throughout England is at one of the three alert levels, so these guidelines will affect most people. However, there are some exceptions under certain circumstances.

If you live in a high or very high-risk area, you can meet with other people outside of the above guidelines in the following instances:

• For work or volunteering
• If you are meeting with people who are in your support or childcare bubble
• To provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable
• To visit someone who is dying
• To attend support groups
• To fulfil a legal obligation
• If you are a birth partner
• For outdoor exercise
• For education or training
• To protest

 

Fines for breach of the coronavirus regulations

what can you be fined for breaching coronavirus regulations

If you are found in breach of the Coronavirus Regulations, you could face fines of up to £10,000. If you break the restrictions in your tier, you could get a fixed penalty notice (FPN) which start at £100 and rise to £6,400.

How much can I be fined?

Host – if you host a gathering of more than 30 people without reasonable excuse, you may be fined £10,000. If you are the ‘organiser’ of the gathering, you will receive an automatic £10,000 fine.

Take note: an ‘organiser’ can be someone ‘contributing’ to the gathering, so say you organized a kid’s party with more than 30 people from different households and your mum made or supplied the birthday cake, she would be deemed an ‘organiser’ and receive a £10,000 fine (yes that is correct and the state of affairs at present).

Attendee – if you attend a gathering without reasonable excuse, you may be fined £100 and for those who have already received a fine of £100 will see the amount doubled on each offence, up to a maximum of £3,200. So, if you are ‘participating’ in the gathering, you will receive a £100 fine, doubling for each subsequent offence.

Self-isolating – If you test positive for coronavirus or have been told by the NHS Test and Trace system to stay at home and self-isolate, you must isolate for 10 days, from the date of the symptoms first developing or if no symptoms, 10 days from your positive test. If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you must isolate for 14 days from the date of the symptoms starting or in the case of no symptoms, 14 days from the positive test. If not, you can face a fine of £1,000 increasing to £10,000 for repeat offenders or serious breaches.

The police can now check the NHS Test and Trace database to find the details about a quarantine-breaker to investigate a tip-off, or to follow up a concern raised by a local authority. The police can find out the name and contact details of anyone who has been asked to self-isolate and the date that order was given.

Can I challenge the fine?

Can I challenge a covid fine?

There are no appeals process to challenge these fines. Your only option would be to not pay the fine, receive a summons to the Magistrates Court and argue your case in Court. If, however you are unsuccessful and the Court upholds the fine, you will be given a criminal conviction which will be on your criminal record.

Will I get a conviction if I pay the fine?

No, if you pay the fine and do not challenge it, you will not have a conviction on your record. This clearly raises the concern of whether the government are trying to ‘scaremonger’ the public into accepting fines regardless of the legality of the fine.

 

How do the police enforce COVID rules?

how do the police enforce covid regulations?

The police are operating under a model they call “The Four E’s”. Before fines are issued by the police to rule-breakers, police should first take a number of steps:

• Engage with people to ask why they appear to be breaking the rules
• Explain the law, stressing the risks to public health and the NHS
• Encourage them to change their behaviour
• Enforce by issuing penalty notices, only as a last resort

In a small minority of cases, the police can charge someone with a criminal breach of the COVID regulations but this is only used in cases where police believe people are deliberately ignoring the rules after repeated incidents.
In extreme circumstances, the police may arrest someone if they believe it is necessary to ‘maintain public health’.

 

Coronavirus and Police Powers of Entry

Police's power of entry during covid

If the police do not have a warrant to enter your property, they have no power of entry unless consent is given by an occupier or section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) applies. Under section 17 of PACE, a police officer can enter and search any premises for the purpose of:

1. Executing a warrant
2. Arresting a person for an indictable offence (the failure to comply with a requirement, a prohibition notice or direction, is a summary only offence thus the police cannot enter your property under this power)
3. Arresting a person on suspicion of fear or provocation of violence
4. Arresting a purpose on suspicion of driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs
5. Arresting a person for failing to stop when required to do so by an officer in uniform
6. Recapturing a person who is deemed unlawfully at large
7. Saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property

So, if the police asked you as the occupier if they can search your home (without a warrant), you refused, they do not have any powers to lawfully enter your home. If the police forced entry, the entry would be unlawful and you could sue them for damages for trespass to property.

If you were detained whilst the property was being searched and whilst you were given a fine, you could also be entitled to damages for false imprisonment.

If consent was not given by an occupier and/or section 17 PACE does not apply, there may be an argument to say the entry into your property was unlawful.

So, if the police knocked on your door and a guest in your house answered, the police asked if the guest lived there and the guest confirmed they did not and the police then asked to enter and the guest consented, this would also be unlawful as a guest cannot give consent to allow the police to enter the property. Again, you could be entitled to damages for trespass to property and false imprisonment depending on the circumstances of your case.

 

Unfair enforcement of regulations

Unfair enforcement of regulations disproportionately affecting BAME individuals

We have recently reported on how these fines for breaking ‘unclear and unambiguous’ lockdown riles are disproportionately affecting BAME individuals. The Joint Committee on Human Rights stated that the way in which regulations were being enforced by the police was having a “disproportionate impact” on young men from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. The committee warned many of the regulations are confusingly named and make it difficult for people to establish what they can and can’t do.

 

What is guidance and what is law?

Many people are confused about what is classed as just guidance and what is classed as law and they can be charged with a criminal offence for not following.

• You cannot be fined for failing to socially distance! This is guidance only not law, despite a tweet from the Met Police this month stating otherwise
• You can travel from a tier 3 region to a tier 1 or 2, it is only guidance, not the law that you avoid travelling to different tier zones

Remember:
• If you are found in breach of COVID regulations, the fines are automatic and cannot be appealed against, your only option would be to not pay the fine and receive a summons to the Magistrates Court and argue your rights if you think you have been wronged
• If you pay the fine and do not challenge it, you will not have a conviction on your record
• If you challenge a fine in the Magistrates and are unsuccessful, you will have a conviction on your record (so much for accountability of government bodies.)

maintain social distance sign

We are firm believers that everyone, including both the public and authorities, have to do our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus and the public should obey the law that is in place. In order for this to be done, the law should be fair and clear for people to understand and follow. Those enforcing the law should ensure they are acting in accordance with the law and be held accountable where they do not to ensure we live in a just society.

If you believe you have been unfairly targeted against by the police, or fined unfairly, contact HNK Solicitors today for legal advice about making a claim.

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