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Update on the Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations: Implications for Children

Following the implementation of legislation pertaining to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Youth Justice Legal Centre provided guidance entitled ‘The Coronavirus Act and Health Protection Regulations: Implications for children’ .  The government has since amended the Regulations; the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2020 (‘the Amendment’). These came into force on 13th May 2020. This update outlines the changes the Amendment makes to the Act and the Regulations in respect of its effect on children and young people.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020 

Restrictions on movements and gatherings

Regulation 6 provides restrictions on a person leaving their home without reasonable excuse.1. The examples in the Regulations remain in force and non-exhaustive, however, the Amendment has added further examples of ‘reasonable excuses’ as follows:

  • Goods which have been ordered from a business 2 online, by telephone, by text message or by post, 3 may now be collected in person. This should assist in ensuring that people can access the provisions children and young people need.
  • People are now permitted to exercise alone, with one or more members of their own household or with one member of another household.4. Furthermore, people can now visit a public open space for recreational purposes to promote physical, mental health or emotional wellbeing alone, with one or members of their household or with one member of another household.5 ‘Public open space’ is defined as including land laid out as a public garden or used for recreation by the public, open country 6 and access land.78

This means that children can now go outside for these purposes and can meet one member of another household, for example a grandparent or other relative. Social distancing measures should still be adhered to with members of other households, as well as other members of the public.

Children can now also attend outside playgrounds; only indoor playgrounds must continue to be closed. 9. Garden centres and outdoor sports courts may also open.10

Children and families can now visit these places if they comply with the amendments to Regulation 6 as above.

Offences and penalties

Significantly on this topic, the Amendment has increased the level of fines available for fixed penalty notices under Regulation 10, 11 however a person must be over the age of 18 in order to receive one and so this is still not applicable to children.

No amendment has been made to Schedule 21 of the Act and therefore it remains that an adult can receive a financial penalty who is responsible for a child if such an individual does not, as far as practicable, ensure that the child complies with the direction.

Regulations 9 and 10 continue to have effect in relation to any offence committed or reasonably believed to have been committed before the Amendment came into force,12 i.e. before 13th May 2020. The Amendment, therefore, does not have retrospective effect.

Other

Beyond the amendments that directly affect children, the Amendment also provides that businesses providing accommodation, e.g. hotels,13 may stay open if they are providing accommodation for persons in critical sectors where that accommodation is needed for their work.14. This may mean that a parent leaves the family home to stay in such accommodation, for example to keep a child isolated to minimise the risk of virus transmission if the parent’s occupation means they are more likely to be exposed to it, e.g. in the medical or care sector.

Commentary

Notwithstanding the amendments to the Regulations, the position remains that children who contravene the Regulations commit an offence. It is of concern that the disposals that can be given to children who breach the Regulations continue to be unclear. Indeed there have been numerous instances of police officers unlawfully fining children for breaching the Regulations.15.

Similarly, despite the further examples provided of what constitutes ‘reasonable excuse’ under Regulation 6, the term remains ambiguous and open to interpretation. This could easily be misinterpreted by children or responsible adults who are then at risk of being arrested.

The most vulnerable have undoubtedly been disproportionality impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is pivotal that, as well as facing the uncertainty and instability of a pandemic, the most vulnerable children are not also stigmatised and criminalised.

Written by Hannah Williams (Barrister) and Samantha Ball (Pupil Barrister) in collaboration with the Youth Justice Legal Centre.

 

  1. Regulation 6 (1), The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020  (back)
  2. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (3) (a) (i  (back)
  3. In compliance with Regulation 5(1)(a), The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020  (back)
  4. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (3) (a) (ii  (back)
  5. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (3) (a) (iii  (back)
  6. As defined in the National Parks and Access to Countryside Act 1949 s. 59 (2) (a), as read with the Countryside Act 1968 s. 16 (b  (back)
  7. For the purposes of Part 1 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (c  (back)
  8. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (3) (b  (back)
  9. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (5) (a). Indoor playgrounds must remain closed according to Regulation 4 (4), The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020  (back)
  10. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (5) (b) as amending The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 Schedule 2 Part 3. Businesses specified in Part 3 may remain open by virtue of Regulation 5 (1), The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020  (back)
  11. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (4  (back)
  12. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 3  (back)
  13. and other similar businesses as defined in by Regulation 5 (3), The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020  (back)
  14. Amendment of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 s. 2 (2  (back)
  15. ‘Police wrongly fining children under coronavirus law’, The Independent, Lizzie Dearden, Wednesday 15 April 2020 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/coronavirus-lockdown-uk-children-fine-police-latest-a9466541.html  (back)