The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 were introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive on 28th March, 2020. The purpose of this legislation is to allow the PSNI to enforce social distancing but instances of police abuse have already occurred.
The police claim that ‘Where our officers encounter people outside who do not appear to be complying with social distancing, officers will use the new dispersal powers to protect the health of the public’. Despite assurances from the PSNI that ‘We will only do this when it is absolutely necessary’ there have already been reports of the police abusing their new powers. We note that most examples highlighted by the Belfast Newsletter involved women being challenged by the police.
The legislation is available here. No where does it state that people are not allowed to gather with members of their household in outside areas of their own property or that the public are not allowed to travel by car to a location suitable for exercise.
This legislation must be in place for the briefest time possible and we call on the PSNI to deliver training to their officers on the limits of their new powers as a matter of urgency. If you have been the victim of police abuse please contact the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland to make a complaint.