Advocacy update

Justice Initiative Calls on UK Government to Address Racial Discrimination by Law Enforcement during COVID-19 Lockdown

Letter to the Secretary of State for Health Regarding Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations Download the four-page letter. 4 Pages, 388.41 Kb, PDF Download
May 31, 2020
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The Justice Initiative has joined 20 organizations in an open letter calling on the UK government to narrow police powers contained in the Health Protection Regulations, which gives police the power to arrest and fine people for violating the lockdown, to prevent racial minorities from being disproportionately targeted. The letter also notes that individuals of color are disproportionately impacted by both the coronavirus and expanded police powers under lockdown, noting that these communities tend to be “over-policed and under-protected”.

An investigation by Liberty Investigates and The Guardian has found that racial minorities in England are 54 per cent more likely to be fined under the Regulations. According to provisional statistics from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), 17,000 fines have been handed out so far in England and Wales. In addition, a review of charges under the Regulations conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that a number of cases were wrongly charged—an injustice that human rights groups believe disproportionately impact racial minorities.

The letter calls on the government to:

  • Amend the Regulations to narrow the power to give instructions, make breach of any restriction a criminal offence only where a person knowingly causes another person immediate harm, exclude children from criminal sanction entirely, and exclude all homeless people, broadly defined, from the Regulations entirely;
  • Publish disaggregated data for each police force on the use of the powers under the Regulations;
  • Establish a uniform right to appeal against any fine issued under the Regulations and request that the police review all fines issued to date; and
  • Publish a rigorous Equality Impact Assessment for any future measures that the Government seeks to implement.

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