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What does COVID-19 and policing mean for me?

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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 £60 (the penalty notice is not a criminal conviction and can be reduced to £30 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.

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 or when using school transport, but it is a legal requirement to wear them on public transport, in train/bus stations and in a shop or shopping centre. 

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.

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