Unlawful powers claimed by Cambridgeshire Police

Cambridgeshire Police officers visited a Tesco in Bar Hill – where they were happy to see “the non essential aisles were empty”. This is despite it being only a day since Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed that police had no powers to check your supermarket purchases. Cambridgeshire Police officers visited the supermarket just a day after Northamptonshire’s chief constable Nick Adderley said his force were only “a few days away” from introducing measures such as road blocks and searching shopping trolleys, as people continue to flout coronavirus¬†regulations resulting in widespread criticism for claiming powers that don’t exist and causing Home Secretary Priti Patel to have to go public to slap down the Chief Constable’s suggestion, which she described as “not appropriate” and “without lawful authority at this time“.

faced a backlash for suggesting officers could search shopping trolleys if people kept flouting social distancing rules and it is disappointing that some Chief Constables are misinforming the public and police about their powers.

Similarly, Gloucestershire police have been illegally stopping customers of The Range in Gloucester, and illegally telling shoppers that their purchases of paint, a sat-nav, an Easter egg, a scratch card, bamboo fencing were not essential. This stems from a failure of the police to consider what is permitted travel.

Similarly other officers have said exercise is limited to 2 people, which is incorrect as it is limited to members of the household.

Permitted travel includes
– going to obtain basic necessities (note – not essentials) and the test of necessities is a subjective objective test, being in the determination of the shopper (subjective) as long as objectively that interpretation is reasonable;
– going to obtain supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household (so if you have a legal obligation in the deeds of your property to maintain your fences, then buying replacement fencing is within permitted purposes, similarly so is buying a sat-nav (functioning), or an easter egg (necessity for Easter) or paint (maintenance)
– shopping for the vulnerable
– seeking medical assistance or collecting medicines
– donating blood
– travelling for purposes of work or voluntary or charitable services where not reasonably possible to provide those services from where they are living (Note that the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 don’t make the criteria of essential for those services (although also note that good practice would suggest that if it can wait, it should, although this is not mandatory);
– funerals.

You are also able to travel to fulfil a legal obligation (and this includes bit not exclusively attending court, satisfying bail conditions or to participate in legal proceedings). (Note the wording says that if you are contractually obligated to do so, you may travel – it does not say only for purposes linked to the legal system!).

Also note that if you share a garden, yard, stairway, garage, outhouse or common parts of a house, then you are within the household definition.

Yorkshire police were also illegally telling householders that they could not sit in their front gardens.

Government lockdown guidelines do not ban anyone from going into their garden. Whilst it is a good idea to maintain social distancing measures if a garden borders a public path or road, there is NO restriction on any use of the garden by its household (but use of a garden with non-household members infringes the law).

After the video was uploaded to Facebook, South Yorkshire Police issued an apology.They said that the officer in the video had been reminded of the lockdown guidelines. Alexander Stafford, MP for Rother Valley, said the officer’s actions constituted an “overreach” (which is code for “illegal”) and without authority).

The truth is that either a) officers have been properly trained and should face disciplinary action for “over-reaching” or b) officers have been advised that they have powers that they don’t have and for that the Chief Constables, as responsible for Force training, should face discipliary action.

Whilst the media have portrayed images of people buying ice-creams, the truth is that if people are our legally taking exercise and choose to buy ice-creams from a shop that is legally open, they’re not breaching the law.

Police were spotted speaking to people on Brighton beach as they appeared to ignore the repeated warnings for staying at home although it is unclear whether the police were simply reminding people that Government advice was to stay at home or whether these were officers “overreaching” as there is at 10th April, no restriction on use of beaches or parks as long as social distancing is maintained.

Elsewhere in the country runners, walkers and cyclists were seen filling crowded pathways in Park, with little apparent regard for social distancing guidance and the police have the power if necessary to protect public health to determine that there is a general gathering of people in that public place and to issue dispersal orders and prohibition notices under s8 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2000

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