Since the Prime Minister addressed the nation on 23rd March and put our country into effective lockdown, the Coronavirus regulations have become a hot topic.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) [or Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales] Regulations 2020 were rushed into force and became legally binding at 1pm on 26th March. These regulations have radically affected our daily life in many aspects and we all await the day when it will be safe enough for there to be some relaxation to them.
These regulations were made for the purpose of enabling a number of public health measures to be taken to reduce the public health risk posed by the spread of Covid-19. These included the requirement to close certain premises and businesses, the restriction of movement and gatherings and the provision to the police of powers to enforce the same.
Perhaps the most regularly discussed regulation (R.6) concerns the restriction placed on an individual's right of movement. Namely, that no individual may leave (or, indeed, be outside of) the place where they are living without reasonable excuse. The regulation then goes on to provide a number examples of reasonable excuse that include obtaining basic necessities, exercising and seeking medical assistance, to name but three. But it is important to appreciate that the list of reasonable excuses provided in the Regulations is not exhaustive and this leaves open the potential to submit that other pursuits or activities not specifically listed are permissible.
There has also been a large amount of confusion as to whether Government guidance suggesting best practice or behaviour amounts has regulatory effect. Simply put, it doesn’t. Only those matters referred to in the regulations can give rise to criminal liability. For example, the exception to leave home just once a day to partake in exercise is guidance and is not law. (Unless, confusingly, you live in Wales - in which case it IS the law that you are limited to leaving the house once a day to partake in exercise.)
It can be seen from this whistle stop tour of the most widely debated regulations of our generation that such rules are a relative minefield. And yet, it is probably not appreciated by most how much of our everyday life is affected by regulations laid down by Parliament and all of which have sanctions attached to them.
Most people would appreciate that a large amount of motoring rules comes from Government pronounced regulations including those relating to defective tyres and steering to the requirement to use seat belts and wear protective headgear when on a motorbike.
But how much else of our everyday day life is controlled by such laws?
Perhaps more than you might imagine. For example, when you sit down on a Thursday to watch The Real Marigold Hotel on BBC1, you will (hopefully) be complying with the Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004. Many other aspects of our life are governed by such rules including those relating to the amount of time we are permitted to work, issues relating to food hygiene and labelling, penalty fares for travelling on public transport without paying the appropriate fare and many more.
The importance to us all of such regulations is that they are intended to regulate how we, as a society, conduct everyday matters. The importance for us as individuals (or companies) is that if we transgress them then we are liable for various penalties and criminal sanctions. What might seem an innocuous breaching of a rarely recognised directive may lead to far reaching consequences.
As far as the Coronavirus regulations are concerned, these were drafted with great haste and little parliamentary scrutiny and as such they are open to wide interpretation. But, they are there for a purpose. As such, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
For more information
If you have any issues relating to the enforcement of regulations or any difficulties with the police or any regulatory authorities, do not hesitate to contact Gepp Solicitors, who are specialists in interpreting and representing people in connection with such matters.