Are there any Coronavirus reasonable excuse exercise time limit laws?
You won’t find your answer in the Coronavirus Act 2020.
Instead, you’ll find what you need, kind of, in Statutory Instrument number 350: Public Health England: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020.
Acts of Parliament (Like the Coronovirus Act, 2020) tend to set out aims rather than detailed law. Instead, many Acts “enable” a person (such as a Government minister) to draft detailed legislation. This detailed legislation is called a, “Statutory Instrument”. SI 350 is signed off by Government Minister Matt Hancock and it sets out the Coronavirus regulations. These regulations are law.
Exercising is a reasonable excuse for being outside
Regulation 6(1) says, “During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”
Regulation 6(2) then sets out a non-exhaustive list of reasonable excuses in, (a) to (h).
The reasonable excuse at (b) is, “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”. (b) does not specify a time limit.
Does Regulation 6 mean you can exercise outside for as long as you want – regardless of what an officer says?
Regulation 8 covers enforcement of the requirements. Look at what 8(3) says,
“Where a relevant person (Police Constable or Police Community Support Officer) considers that a person is outside the place where they are living in contravention of regulation 6(1), the relevant person may –
(a) direct that person to return to the place where they are living, or
(b) remove that person to the place where they are living.
Remembering that 6(1) is the starting point, that 6(2) is a non-exhaustive list of “reasonable excuses”, and remembering that 8(3) references 6(1) and says, “where a relevant person considers …”, it must be right that an officer has the power to direct someone to go home – even if that person is out for a jog or other form of physical training.
If, a marathon running jogger were to defy a direction by a police officer to go home, that jogger could well be opening up themselves to being arrested.
“What for?” you ask.
The hypothetical marathon jogger who has been directed to go home by a police officer but refuses could be liable for being arrested for failing to comply with the officer’s direction – and the offence the hypothetical marathon jogger who carries on regardless of a police officer’s direction to go home is as per regulation 9(3), which says,
A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes a direction given under regulation 8, or fails to comply with a reasonable instruction or a prohibition notice given by a relevant person under regulation 8 commits an offence.
Therefore, the offence is likely to be the to failure to follow the reasonable direction of the ‘relevant person’.
“Reasonable” is not defined in law, so there is an element of discretion and interpretation in what reasonable might look like.
Regulation 8(11) says:
“A relevant person exercising a power under paragraphs 3, 5, 6 or 9 may give the person concerned any reasonable instructions they consider to be necessary”.
What an officer considers, “reasonable” for Cumbria might be different from what’s reasonable for Hackney. Or be different at different times of the day.
What can they do to me?
While an offence under these regulations is, “Non-recordable”, it is still open to the police to give you a Fixed Penalty Notice and/or summons you to the Magistrates Court.
If our hypothetical marathon jogger were obstructive or otherwise refused to comply, a police officer, as a last resort, could arrest them.
My simple tip
Context is everything. You must take advice on the facts of your specific case if you are aggrieved.