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There appears to be some confusion over the extent of the new regulations restricting our freedom of movement. This confusion is in part due to the regulations being drafted so widely and vaguely and also to the interpretation (or perhaps misinterpretation) of them by the police in England where there has been criticism of how they have exercised their powers. New guidance has just issued which might assist police in this regard.

The regulations allow us to leave home for important reasons and with a reasonable excuse. The regulations give no definition of what might be a ‘reasonable excuse’ but some thirteen examples are provided. These include essential shopping, exercise, medical reasons and child contact. Some of these reasons are vague. There is no definition of what might be the ‘basic necessities’ we are allowed to leave home to obtain, but these include and are not limited to food and medical supplies and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household. There is also no definition of what might constitute exercise. While this list of thirteen examples is non-exhaustive, to be justified any trip from home will have to be reasonable and necessary.

Despite Government messages suggesting the contrary, there is no specific restriction on how often we can leave home or for how long. There is also no specific restriction on us driving somewhere to exercise, but driving miles for a jog or frequently going to a shop are likely to be subject to whether it was reasonable and necessary.

Any breach of these restrictions, that is, where there is no reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence and could result in a conviction. In addition, refusing to comply with the request of police to return home is now also an offence and the police have the powers to use reasonable force to return people to their home. These offences are mitigated by the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices rather than prosecution for those over 18 years of age. Such Notices may not, however, always be issued and so a summons to court may follow. If a Notice is issued and the fine of £60 is paid (or £30 if paid within 14 days) prosecution can be avoided.  

It is of course anticipated that police will take a common sense approach when dealing with the public, which certainly appears to be the case in this jurisdiction so far and that the public will in turn heed the warnings and advice given by police, should they be stopped and asked to account being out of their home.

If you have any further queries arising from this article or any other issues relating to criminal law please contact Michael May at michael.may@edwardsandcompany.co.uk or Kellie Morwood at kellie.morwood@edwardsandcompany.co.uk

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