Satpal Roth-Sharma Writes on The Coronavirus Act 2020

The police forces across the country now have the powers to issue a summons for offences relating to the new coronavirus legislation passed in March 2020 as a response to the ongoing Pandemic. This has been enacted as an emergency measure, to protect the public, its well-being and the National Health Service who are regarded as front line workers.

So, what does the law say we can do?

The legislation passed says that you must not leave your residence without reasonable excuse. This is defined as follows;

The term ‘reasonable excuse’ is not defined but the legislation gives a non-exhaustive list of 13 examples including the following :-

  • Obtain basic necessities including food and medical supplies for people in your own home or for vulnerable persons

  • Take exercise alone or with members of your household

  • Seek medical assistance

  • Provide care to vulnerable people

  • Donate blood

  • Attend a funeral of someone from your household or a close family member and in some circumstances that of a friend

  • Participate in legal proceedings

The final point above confirms that if you are due in court to appear, you should do so unless notified otherwise, or make efforts to contact the court to ask them if the case will be dealt with by way of video hearing or if it might be adjourned.

The rules do not apply to anyone who is homeless.

What will happen if I leave the home without a reasonable excuse?

On a common sense note, you are endangering yourself potentially and the lives of others, furthermore, leaving the house unnecessarily could potentially spread the virus instead of containing it like the “Lockdown” is aiming to do.

The punishment at present would be as follows:

  1. Receive a fixed penalty notice of £60 (reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days)

  2. Expect to receive a court summons.

(If you are convicted or plead guilty to the offence you will have a criminal record. The offence itself is a summary only offence which mean it is only triable in the Magistrates court and punishable by a fine. However, a criminal conviction could ruin your future for many reasons.

So, it is strongly advisable not to:

  • Go shopping with other members of your household

  • Leave the house multiple times per day

  • Leave the house for lengthy periods of time

  • Go for a drive

  • Exercise anywhere you cannot reach on foot

  • Leaving the house to buy non-essential items

Everyone has a social responsibility to follow government advice, the advice that is there for a reason to protect the public as a whole.

Whilst the guidelines of the coronavirus legislation are wide and indeed vague in some respects, we need to be using our common sense in these difficult times as mentioned above.

Should you be found to be in breach of any of the ‘reasonable excuses’ to be out of the home, you may be subject to a criminal conviction and a criminal record. This is likely to depend on the extent of which you are going beyond the regulations. If you are issued a fixed penalty notice, you can avoid any potential criminal liability by paying a fine of £60 (or £30 if paid in 14 days).

Much of the power has now been handed to the police in enforcing this, so the penalty for breaching these regulations is essentially in their hands, they have the delegated authority from the government.

if you receive a summons you should seek legal advice

The police have been given a wide discretion to implement and therefore you may have a defence to any charges laid against you.

Contact our Regulatory Team [email protected] if you require guidance on an offence relating to the coronavirus legislation.

We are all struggling and the more we stay within the regulations laid out by the Government, the sooner, we hope, we can get back to a sense of normality. Many industries are under strain at the moment, and the less unnecessary strain we can put on the Magistrates Courts, the better.

We are living through a global pandemic, we each play a part in preventing the spread of the disease, please stay at home.

If you require any other legal support in light of Covid19, please get in touch. with our Director of Clerking: Martin Leech

[email protected]

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