The Weekly Round-Up: Three Tiers

19 October 2020 by

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

In the News:

On 12 October 2020, the Prime Minister made a statement in Parliament and addressed the nation to announce a new three tier lockdown system would be introduced across the country. The Secretary of State for Health introduced three statutory instruments before Parliament which came into force two days later.

In oversimplified terms, the restrictions in place in each tier are as follows:

  • Tier 1 (Medium Risk)
    • Restricts gatherings of more than six people, unless a relevant exception applies (for example, all being from one household).
    • Restaurants and pubs to close between 10pm and 5am.
    • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open.
    • Enforcement powers allow a “relevant person” to direct people to disperse or return to their homes, remove people from gatherings, and use reasonable force in doing so. Offence and penalties apply.
    • Must be reviewed once every 28 days. Due to expire after six months.  
  • Tier 2 (High Risk)
    • Restricts indoor gatherings, unless all people are from the same household or another relevant exception applies.
    • Restricts outdoor gatherings of more than six people, unless a relevant exception applies (for example, all being from one household).
    • Restaurants and pubs to close between 10pm and 5am.
    • Enforcement powers as above for Tier 1.
    • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open.
    • Must be reviewed (in relation to specific areas every 14 days. Due to expire after six months.
  • Tier 3 (Very High Risk)
    • Restricts gatherings in any indoor setting, private garden or at most hospitality venues, unless all people are from the same household or another relevant exemption applies.
    • Permits gatherings of up to six people from different households in outdoor public spaces, such as parks.
    • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open but household mixing is not permitted.
    • Enforcement powers as above for Tier 1 and 2.
    • Must be reviewed at least once every 28 days. The inclusion of areas in the Tier 3 category expires automatically after 28 days. Due to expire after six months.

postcode checker on the government website shows which alert level applies in each area and the NHS COVID-19 app will also direct people to this information. A longer overview of the restrictions imposed can be found here.

In response, Sir Keir Starmer called a press conference on Tuesday evening during which he shattered the last semblance of a political consensus over the UK’s handing of the pandemic. He called for a different approach: a nation-wide two-week “circuit breaker”.  The idea was first proposed by Sage, the government’s committee of scientific advisers, last month. Mr Johnson opted instead for more limited measures to avoid economic damage.

In addition to Labour’s dissent, commentators in the North of England have criticised the government for a “highly centralised approach to Covid-19 [which] has been a disaster for northern regions.” In a development which brought to focus an often-overlooked conflict –between local and national government – the mayor of Greater Manchester has said that the region will “stand firm” against plans to move it to Tier 3 unless more financial support is offered for people affected by tougher rules.

In Other News:

  • Last week’s Round-Up discussed Priti Patel’s condemnation of “lefty lawyers” interfering in immigration appeals and Boris Johnson’s claim that the criminal justice system was “hamstrung by … lefty human rights lawyers.” It has since been reported that Patel ignored warnings from two senior colleagues to stop targeting immigration lawyers after a knife attack against a solicitor last month was linked to her rhetoric.
  • Two senior family lawyers have offered mixed assessments of remote hearings in the family court system during the pandemic. In the opening session of an online conference, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Division, said that some family courts had adapted so well to remote working that they no longer had a backlog of cases. However, he also acknowledged widespread fatigue and demoralisation. During the same conference, High Court judge Mr Justice Francis welcomed  “absolutely immense” cost savings. On the other hand, he emphasised the acute strain of having to deal with egregious and disturbing cases in one’s own home.
  • An inquiry into indiscriminate orders not to resuscitate care home residents (“DNACPR decisions”) has been launched by the Care Quality Commission. More than 18,000 people died from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in UK care homes in the first phase of the pandemic. Concerns about conditions and human rights infringements in care homes are widespread, although there has also been broad acknowledgement of the exceptionally trying circumstances over the past several months.

In the Courts:

  • R (on the application Z and another) v Hackney London Borough Council and another [2020] UKSC 40: the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed an appeal from a single mother of four small children, two of whom have autism, who had to wait longer to be allocated suitable housing as she is not a member of the Orthodox Jewish community and so larger properties owned by the Agudas Israel Housing Association were not available to her. An exception to the Equality Act 2019’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of “religion or belief” applied; namely, the Association’s policy of making social housing available to members of the Orthodox community was a proportionate response to the needs and disadvantages of that group. The Court also found that the Association was not in contravention of the Race Directive, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, since its allocation policy rested on the basis of religious observance.

On the UKHRB:

  • Michael Spencer summarises recent Court of Appeal judgments which clarified the approach to determining whether separating a foreign national criminal from his settled child or partner is “unduly harsh”.
  • Ronan Cormacain argues that clause 47 of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill is “the mother of all ouster clauses”.
  • Paul Edrunast overviews a recent Court of Appeal judgment regarding unlawful detention under the Detained Fast Track system.

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