What does COVID-19 and policing mean for me?

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 is a new emergency law that came into force on 28th March, 2020.  This law gives the police special powers.

If you are outside of your home and you are not social distancing from others the police have new powers to disperse (break up) crowds.  The police will do this in a staged way as follows:

  1. Police will encourage you to social distance or for a crowd to disperse.
  2. The police will give you a reason as to why they want you and your friends to disperse.
  3. If you do not listen to the police they have powers under the new law to enforce social distancing.
What will happen if my friends and/or I don’t social distance when asked by the police?

If you or your friends do not follow the directions of the police then you could be committing a criminal offence.  You may be:

  • given advice or guidance by the police;
  • issued with a Community Resolution Notice (this is a notice that can be issued to anyone 10 years old and over for a range of offences not just for COVID-19);
  • issued a penalty notice of £200 (the penalty notice is not a criminal conviction and can be reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days).

If the police have to issue you with further notices the fine can be doubled and you can be prosecuted if you do not pay the fine or comply with the notice. You can find out more about COVID-19 compliance and penalties here.

Do I have to wear a face covering/mask?

Most people are now being asked to wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 from person to person.

You do not have to wear a face covering if you are;

  • under the age of 13;
  • an employee working behind a partition, or if you are in an area not open to the public and can maintain 2 metre social distance from your colleagues; or,
  • If you have a reasonable excuse not to.

It is a legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport, in train/bus stations and in a shop or shopping centre unless you are a primary school student or a member of staff behind a protective screen. 

You must wear a face covering in these places unless you have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one, such as:

  • when seeking medical assistance;
  • providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person;
  • to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm where you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of any disability; 
  • to eat or drink, where reasonably necessary or if you the need to take medication;
  • the need to remove a face covering temporarily to comply with a request by a relevant person or another person acting in the course of their duties;
  • where a person responsible for a relevant place an employee of that person acting in the course of their employment, has asked that the face covering be removed for identification purposes.

Police and emergency responders do not have to wear face coverings when they are working.

Regulations on wearing face coverings.

For more information you can contact us on 08088085678, email ree@childrenslawcentre.org or online at REE Live Chat.

What if I need to contact the police during COVID-19?

You can still contact the police for help during COVID-19 by calling 999 in an emergency or 101 if the matter is not an emergency.

Police may ask you questions about your health and that of others in your home to see if anyone there has COVID-19 or is isolating before coming out to see you.