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What do the rules on relaxation of the lockdown on 13th May 2020 actually mean – what can I now do?
On 11th May 2020 Boris Johnson made a public address explaining that we were entering the next phase of lockdown that would result in a slight relaxation of the lockdown rules from 13th May 2020. On 12th May 2020 the Government published “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” providing more detail on the plans. Many of the measures outlined in that document did not require a change in the law, but some did. The amendments to the legislation were laid before Parliament on Wednesday 13th May 2020 and is known as The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations (Amendment) (No. 2) 2020 and had immediate effect. Below is a brief explanation of what those changes mean and a revisit of our previous guidance amended in light of the changes.
What are the amendments to the regulations?
First, the regulations add an extra category to those permitted to use hotels and other accommodation which is largely closed so it now includes the ability for accommodation providers to stay open for the critical and key workers who have previously been eligible for their children to go to school (as defined in the “Guidance for critical workers who can access schools or educational settings”) who need accommodation related to their work.
Most of the changes relate to the reasonable excuses for leaving the place in which you live as follows:
Penalties for breaching the regulations are also being increased with fixed penalty notices now £100 for the first offence reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days. Each subsequent offence will see a doubling of the penalty up to £3,200.
Businesses that are explicitly allowed to be open are now extended to include garden centres and open sports courts to allow us to access these facilities.
Below is an updated version of our original advice on lockdown:
Who is allowed to leave their home?
There is a blanket ban on anyone leaving the home they live in without a reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuses under the law actually amounts to more than the reasons that the government refer to in their press conferences, but is still quite restrictive. The requires that you must have a reasonable excuse at all times you have left your home. It is therefore no longer good enough to have started with a reasonable excuse and then gone to do something else on your way home. All activities whilst away from your home must count as a reasonable excuse.
What is a reasonable excuse?
The law defines what counts and as reasonable excuse but the list is none exhaustive and the Courts could decide to accept additional reasons. If the excuse for being out of your home is not listed it is likely you will be breaking the law unless there was a very good reason very similar to that listed. The list of reasonable excuses has been recently been extended and now consists of:
Am I allowed to go out in my garden or front lawn?
The law allows you to go into any garden, yard, drive, passage, stairway, garage, outhouse or similar which forms part of your property.
Can I visit my friends and relatives?
You cannot visit friends and family at their home whether indoor or outdoors, nor in any other indoor area (except if this is a workplace you both need to attend). However, you could meet with one other person in an open public space. You can also make contact over video call, phone, text or e-mail.
If your friend or family member is a vulnerable person you are able to visit them at their property to provide them with medical assistance or essential supplies.
Who is a vulnerable person?
The law defines anyone over the age of 70 as a vulnerable person and also anyone under 70 years old with the following ailments as being a vulnerable person:
Can I take exercise or leave the house more than once a day or for more than an hour?
There is no restriction on the number of times you can exercise nor for how long. There is also no requirement for you actually to exercise whilst out of the house provided it is for the purpose of open-air recreation to promote your physical or mental health or emotional wellbeing and is in a public open place.
Can I use my car to drive somewhere to take my exercise?
The law does not prevent the use of vehicles to go and take exercise or to visit an open public place. Recent Government announcements also expressly permitted the use of vehicles to travel any distance in England.
How many people can be together when outside of their home?
During the lockdown you are not permitted to be in a public place in a group of more than two people unless any of the following exceptions apply:
It is worth noting that there is no definition of public place in the coronavirus legislation and as such it is likely to take its usual interpretation which, whilst complicated, is essentially anywhere that the public would readily have access to whether indoors or outdoors whether or not a charge would be made for them to be there.
I am homeless, do these rules apply to me?
The rules about staying in your home do not apply to someone who is homeless, however the rules about gatherings of more than 2 people still do.
Some local authorities and hotels are arranging accommodation for the homeless at this time so you should contact local homeless charities and local authorities to see if you can get somewhere to stay. You may want to consider presenting as homeless at your local authority as this can trigger some statutory duties for the authority to house you if you fall within specific categories.
If you need any help or advice on homelessness Fieldings Porter’s Housing Team may be able to help you.
What happens if I breach the rules?
A number of offences have been introduced into law for if anyone breaches the various coronavirus rules.
Where a PCSO or a Police Officer believe that someone is outside the place where they are living in breach of the rules they have a number of options available to them.
First, they may require the person to return to the place where they are living or may physically take them there and may use reasonable force (if necessary) to do so.
Any adult who is with a child they are responsible for may be asked to return the child home and ensure the child complies with instructions to stay at home.
If a PCSO or Police Officer believes a group of three or more people gathered in a public place are breaching the regulations they can direct the parties to disperse, direct any of the party to return home or take any of them home.
Each of the breaches of the rules is an offence in its own right for which a fixed penalty notice or Court Summons can be issued.
In addition a failure to comply with a PCSO or Police Officer request to go home or disperse as above is also an offence for which a fixed penalty notice or Court Summons can be issued.
A fixed penalty must contain a number of pieces of information and provide the recipient 28 days in which to pay the amount due. The first time an offence is committed the amount should be £100 and if repaid within 14 days would be £50. Subsequent offences will be double the previous one up to a maximum of £3,200. Failure to pay the fixed penalty within 28 days can lead to prosecution for the offence which is punishable by a fine at the Magistrates’ Court.
Issuing a fixed penalty is not obligatory and a PCSO or a Police Officer may refer the matter for prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service instead.
Officers can arrest someone who they have reason to believe is breaching or is about to breach regulations and may do so on reduced necessity grounds of maintaining public health and maintaining public order.
It is also worth bearing in mind that other offences could also be committed in any altercation with the authorities over the enforcement of the regulations and action for public order offences or assault would equally be enforceable.
Can Fieldings Porter help l me if I am arrested or receive a fixed penalty or Court summons?
Should you be arrested for any reason, including breach of the lockdown rules, you should always ask for a solicitor regardless of whether you have done anything wrong or not as you can receive advice on your best options based on the situation. You should be asked if you want a solicitor and you can specify Fieldings Porter and we will be contacted. We are still able to assist you at this time, although, you should be aware that as with all things at the moment, adaptations have been made at police stations to deal with how legal advice is administered during the Coronavirus outbreak so your experience could be a little different than normal.
If you have received a fixed penalty or Court Summons for coronavirus lockdown offences and believe that you should not have received this please contact the Fieldings Porter Criminal Team who can discuss your case and whether we can assist.
12th May 2020
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