A barrister has written a mythbusting guide to coronavirus law that everyone should read

Coronavirus and a police officer with camera
Support us and go ad-free

The new range of restrictive powers on our movements has been, at best, confusing. Different police forces have interpreted them differently. Some have indicated that they are not following the guidelines set out by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Others have been deleting tweets containing former action they’ve taken against citizens.

But a barrister, Stephen Knight, from One Pump Court is ensuring that people in England know their rights by producing the Covid-19 Legal Mythbuster.

Stay at home

The article points out that:

People should stay at home and listen to genuine health advice.

It says the document sets out “the legal position in relation to what you can and cannot legally do”. But it also emphasises that:

just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t, that doesn’t mean the state can necessarily legally stop you.

Furthermore, it states that while physical distance measures are essential:

Read on...

Agents of the state have applied those powers expansively, and often more expansively than the law allows. Recent cases have included people being convicted for crimes that they could not have been guilty of, or for crimes that do not even exist.


One Pump Court “provides access to justice for the vulnerable and disadvantaged and fights poverty, abuse, neglect and discrimination”. It says it does this because:

Society is not equal. We use the law to level the field. Using fearless advocacy and professionalism

Its new guide goes through 18 myths about coronavirus (Covid-19) law and sets out what the law is on each of them. For example, it looks at whether it’s a crime to leave your house more than once a day, stating:

The Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations make it a crime to leave or be outside the place where you live without reasonable excuse. There is no limit to the number of times you can leave your home each day, as long as you have a reasonable excuse on each occasion.

It also links to the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing document on advice on what “constitutes a reasonable excuse to leave the place where you live”.

But the law is changing at speed. For example, on 22 April, the legislation was updated to state:

During the emergency period, no person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse…

As Rachel Jones from Blackstone Chambers notes:

The Amending Regulations have created a new offence: being outside one’s home without a reasonable excuse may break the law, even if you had a perfectly good reason to go out in the first place.

Know your rights

No-one should be looking to find loopholes to circumvent the lockdown. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to know your rights – especially when police abuses of these powers are happening across the country, as the Network for Police Monitoring and the Undercover Research Group are documenting.

In particular, it’s important to note that:

During the COVID-19 pandemic you are not required to provide your name or address to the police in any circumstances where you normally would not have to. The police have no general power to force you to give your name and address.

In fact, there are no new police powers regarding handing over personal information. The only time this is required is if you’re “driving or if they have reason to believe that you have engaged in anti-social behaviour in a public place (which means causing people harassment, alarm, or distress)”. Additionally, if the police want to issue a fixed penalty notice then refusing to give your name and address could lead to arrest.

Many of us never believed we’d live through a time where the state can impose such huge restrictions on our lives that, on the whole, we support. After all, there is no other choice if we want to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect ourselves, our loved ones and strangers we’ve never met.

But accepting that premise is based on consent and science. It’s not based on state powers. It’s not based on accepting an authoritarian state where, because we’re living through unprecedented times, we suddenly have to accept everything the police tell us.

So this guide should be essential reading for everyone. Not to break the rules. Not to circumvent lockdown. But to know your rights and to ensure the police are accountable for what they are doing on our streets.

Featured image via Wikimedia/scientific animations and Emily Apple

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. I would love to know what science the lockdown measures are based on. I have done research- there is no published study that shows that a virus can cause disease. I don’t deny that people are getting sick and dying, though not in numbers excessive to normal mortality. Fear and stress also create illness and if everyone is panicked, invasive medical procedures can have an adverse effect. Something is going on, but I no longer believe an inert element that has no metabolism so can’t produce energy, has no form of locomotion, no respiration or digestion, and can only reproduce inside a living person if it connects with a cell using a lock and key mechanism to communicate., causes disease by carrying a piece of genetic material inside the cell. Covid19 has not been purified and injected into a healthy animal to reproduce the symptoms it is supposed to create. Why is no one doing the work to demonstrate causation? I wonder if the language of death and fear is the real virus that has got into all of us.

      1. I think that anyone who does research on this is going to come up with similar or the same conclusions, basically this lock-down is a continuation of the deceptions we have been subjected to by government, large institutions, corporate interests, and a whole bunch of global elitists, that are fundamentally aimed at culling the poor, the ‘weak’, those of differing ideologies to ‘The State’, and particularly the old, because there are so many claiming pensions that the state and various corporate interests would rather not pay out, when bumping them off this way is far easier for them, and harder to prove for us (& even if we are able to prove it, that proof would fall on deaf judicial ears).

        I’ve said it to a great many people already, and I don’t mind saying it again, read Naomi Klien’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’ (also available in video form), she is an Internationally acclaimed Investigative Journalist who has been following what has been going on for a great deal of her career and life, and her interviews with Thatcher, Pinochet, and many more World leaders, as well as her investigative journalism into Milton Friedman (now dead) are most illuminating.

        The Shock Doctrine (created by Milton Friedman, then Head of Economics at The Chicago School of Economics), spells out exactly what should be done in order to give corporate interests, particularly American ones (but not limited to them), carte blanche power over The World.

        Just as Electro-Shock Therapy is designed to wipe the mind of the patient such as you may start with a ‘clean slate’, the Economic version that Milton Friedman proposed and promoted, proscribes series after series of economic shocks to the World’s economies, to put the majority of us into a compliant state (brought about through repeated shocks of fear and uncertainty). Those that do not succumb, are to be despatched – murdered, just as Pinochet allowed The Ford Motor Company to do to workers in Chile in the 70’s.

        Sadly, even now, too many people would rather bury their heads in the sand than see what is truly going on. The acolytes of Milton Friedman are all in place around the world, and despite name changes to things like ‘Neo-liberals’ and the like, the design and focus remain the same, and most, if not all leading World Leaders (Business and State) are following those principals right now.

        I never find myself praising Margaret Thatcher, but it was clear in this book, that The Poll-Tax Riots could have seen armed soldiers shooting people in the streets, it is what Pinochet argued with her to do (as he and others were following the credo already), but Thatcher refused because as she said, ‘that’s just not the British way’. Leaders since her, have shown more and more tendencies to go further than her, and under our latest incumbent Prime Minister, it certainly cannot be ruled out that we will see troops on the street, ready to shoot those disobeying protesting against an ever-more authoritarian, Friedman-ite policy.

        Don’t take my word for it, you can start here if you wish to research this further;

        A small note to The Canary, and Emily Apple;-

        Please would you cover this Book (and her others) in an article/s so that more people may become aware of what is really going on, and be better informed, even if it is to disagree with her findings, I doubt you’d be able to disagree with the facts recorded in history.

      1. It should relate to Cardiff Bay Police, but what can we do when The Police become uniformed thugs?

        It should be noted that The Police, by their own behaviour, would be the first ones to suffer and die at the hands of an enraged populous, and their uniforms and pledges will mean nothing, nor offer any protection, when the mob rages for justice.

        It is a sad fact that because of those Police (who behave like tin-pot generals, engorged with the feeling of power), genuine Police who are doing their best for us will also bear the brunt of the backlash which is building even now, which is why it is those Police who should turn their backs on their fellow officers, or turn those around who are abusing the law and the Public.

        The Police are stuck in the middle, used by the rich and powerful as pawns in a war the Police themselves are tricked and forced into fighting, and hated by those who have been unfairly and despicably treated by them. Do not think that the images we have seen of Firefighters and Police fighting in France can’t happen here, and bear in mind that to many Firefighters are real heros, whereas The Police are generally State agents to keep us all in line, even if that goes against the very things (democracy, decency, fairness etc.,) that they claim to support.

        The modern Police force is not what it used to be, it has been infiltrated by ideals and peoples who’s intention is to militarise them against the citizenry, in such a way as to make public protest a crime. It is not unlike how a certain Austrian made his mark on the World, and the mechanisms being employed these days in recruiting and training are almost identical to those employed in the nefarious past.

        It is high time that The Police turn back the tide of corruption, dishonesty, and myopic insensitivity. It is time that The Police stand with the people, not with those who would put them on the front lines in order to beat us all into fear-induced submission.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.