Can the police direct a non-infected person to go home?

This is essentially the question I raised in my previous posts, “Can the Coronavirus police stop me from jogging?” and, “What’s the penalty for complying with Coronavirus laws?“.

The starting point is that the police only have powers to act under statute – and some very limited common law powers.

To put it another way, police can only lawfully do something if they have been given the power to do so. The majority of police powers are contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

The Coronavirus Act, 2020 gives police further powers to act in certain situations.

What do the Coronavirus Act, 2020 schedules say?

Schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act, 2020 contains powers relating to potentially infectious persons. These powers relate to requiring a person to be screened for Coronavirus.

Schedule 22 of the Coronavirus Act, 2020 gives police powers to issue directions relating to events, gatherings and premises.

Schedules 21 & 22 are the only provisions in the Coronavirus Act, 2020 which give police additional powers to direct people to do something – like get screened or shut down premises.

Marie Dinou was brought to North Tyneside Magistrates Court for failing to comply with Schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act, 2020. But police in that case were not purporting to direct Miss Dinou to get screened for the virus – they thought that she did not have a reasonable excuse for being outside her home.

The British Transport Police say that Miss Dinou was charged under an, “incorrect section of the new Coronavirus legislation”. But what “section” of the new Coronavirus legislation are the police talking about?

The correct “parent” Act is the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act

Section 45R of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, 1984 gives Matt Hancock the power to create the SI 350 regulations. So when the police say that Miss Dinou was charged, “under the wrong section of the Coronavirus legislation”, the “section” they must mean is an entirely different Act.

So can the police direct a non-infected person to go home?

Yes, as the SI 350 regulations are valid law as per s45R of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, 1984.

My simple tip

The only way you will know if the police have made a mistake is to take legal advice. Miss Dinou was lucky there was a phalanx of Twitter lawyers who came to the rescue and ramped-up pressure on the police to drop the charge. Most people have to make their own luck by ensuring they get their own qualified Criminal lawyer’s advice.