THE PSNI have released details of their latest answers to questions posed by the media during the coronavirus pandemic.
Are people permitted under the regulations to travel to beauty spots or similar places for exercise?
The regulations – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/Coronavirus-Restrictions-Regs-2020.pdf do not forbid it, but only specifically cite travel as legitimate for the purpose of work, and the police seem confused on the matter.
There is no confusion on the part of police. The very simple health advice is to stay at home and you should only leave home when it is absolutely essential. The health care advice around this is that travelling long distances for your daily exercise is not essential and therefore you should not be doing it. It is a reasonable excuse to travel for the purpose of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services where it not reasonably possible for that person to work or provide those services from their home. People are also permitted to leave their homes for essential matters such as to seek medical assistance, obtain basic necessities including food and medical supplies, provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, donate blood, to attend a funeral of a member of the person’s household or close family member.
Last week where there was understandable public concern for up to 150 or 160 cars at a particular car park in a particular place and people were asking the question how can people be socially distancing in those circumstances and I think it is reasonable for police to be able to engage with people and seeking them to take the advice of medical advisors and stay at home.
The Police Service is working in partnership with our colleagues in the NI Executive Office, the Department of Health and agencies across the public sector, to jointly fight the spread of the virus. We cannot do this unless the public adhere to the new measures, therefore I am calling on everyone in Northern Ireland to work with us, use your common sense and only leave your house if absolutely necessary.
There is nothing in the regulations that deal with dog walking. Is dog walking permitted, and if so are there restrictions on number of walks or places they can be walked?
This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive.
Can the PSNI actually arrest people for breaking the regulations, or only issue a summons for court?
“There are no powers of arrest contained within the new legislation, however officers may have a power to arrest for such matters of obstruction of a police officer in due execution of their duty, if absolutely necessary. Under the new legislation if a person commits an offence of failing to comply with a direction or restriction imposed on them without reasonable excuse, officers can consider an appropriate disposal. That may initially be advice and guidance or a Community Resolution Notice (CRN). However, if required Police can enforce this legislation and issue a penalty notice of £60. In the first instance this is not a criminal offence – the Police do not want to criminalise people, we simply want to ensure that people follow the regulations.
“For those who continue to disregard the NI Executive directions, the fine can be doubled each time and summary prosecution can be sought for those who refuse to pay or comply. The £60 fine can fall to £30 if paid within 14 days. If a person has already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence.
“At this stage police are very much in the Engage stage of our Engage – Explain – Encourage –Enforce strategy and no formal cautions have been issued.”
Can police make checks on workplaces to make sure they are complying with coronavirus control measures ie social distancing of staff, provision of protective equipment where necessary etc if other bodies, such as The Health and Safety Executive, do not carry out these inspections. Are employers who do not adhere to social distancing and force staff to come to work breaking the law?
I don’t see this as a role for police. Workplace issues need to be addressed by the appropriate agency and department. If police receive a request from the Executive Department to consider such action then it will be considered on a case by case basis and on its merits at that time.