The Weekly Round-Up: New COVID-19 rules for three nations and no investigation into Met on Downing Street Christmas party
27 December 2021
In the news:
From 26 December new Covid rules came into effect in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. All three nations have limited the size of public events and face coverings are compulsory in most indoor public spaces. Covid passports or proof of a negative test result is required at many venues. Nightclubs will close in Wales and Scotland from 27 December and in Northern Ireland from 26 December. People in Scotland are also advised to limit social contact to two other households and in Wales social distancing of 2 metres is required in all public and work spaces.
The only change to the current Covid guidance for England is the reduction of Covid self-isolation time from 10 to seven days, provided people have two negative test results. Face masks remain compulsory in most indoor public venues and a Covid passport or negative test result is required for nightclubs and some other venues.
In other news:
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has said it will not investigate the Metropolitan Police’s handling of allegations of an illegal Christmas party held at 10 Downing Street last year. The Met Police said it did not investigate the party allegations due to an “absence of evidence” and its policy “not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations”. The force referred to the IOPC allegations by Green Party peer Baroness Jones that “the police must have known” about any unlawful gathering at No 10 and “were highly likely to have played an active part in organizing or facilitating the illegal gathering.” The IOPC said the complaint was not valid as it did not come from an individual adversely affected by the alleged conduct.
The Women and Equalities Committee has urged the government to amend “outdated” gender recognition laws. The current law states that individuals applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) must live in their acquired gender for two years and receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The Committee said the two-year requirement “risks entrenching outdated and unacceptable gender stereotypes” and called on the government to abandon the need for a medical diagnosis by 2023; remove the spousal veto from gender recognition laws; and launch an action plan to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) within 12 weeks. The Committee chair, Caroline Nokes MP, said “[t]he GRA is crying out for modernisation, and the government has spectacularly missed its opportunity.”
Liberty Investigates has reported that a Met Police programme, which aimed to tackle violence in London from May to July 2020, disproportionately targeted teenagers and Black people. Operation Pima listed 758 people linked by the Met to violent crimes, with the intention to visit and offer them education or employment programmes. In response to Freedom of Information requests, the force described the listed people as “the most prolific or violent offenders”, but 61% were Black and 61% 18 or under. Targets of the Operation included people “linked” to violent offences as suspects, as well as offenders. The Met’s Equality Impact Assessment for Operation Pima revealed that “due to the extent of the [racial] disproportionality a consideration was made to not run the operation at all.” There are concerns that some of the 758 people were unaware of their inclusion on the list and the fact that refusal to partake in the employment or education programmes could be raised in future court appearances.
In the courts:
Miller, R (On the Application Of) v The College of Policing  EWCA Civ 1926: Former police officer Harry Miller successfully challenged a national policy for police forces to record gender-critical views as non-crime hate incidents. The College of Policing’s Hate Crime Operation Guidance states incidents must be recorded as such if it is perceived by the “victim or any other person or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person” with a specific characteristic. Mr Miller challenged the lawfulness of this policy on common law and Article 10 grounds, after he received a non-crime hate incident record for gender-critical Tweets he made in 2018 and 2019. The Court of Appeal found that “[t]he Guidance clearly constituted a real and significant interference with the right to freedom of expression”  as it made no provision for “‘common-sense’ discretion not to record irrational complaints” . There is thus no ability for enforcers to consider the proportionality of recording “hate incidents” to its legitimate aim .
Bani v The Crown  EWCA Crim 1958: The Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of three non-EU national asylum seekers who steered boats of migrants from France to England. The three men were charged under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971 for “facilitat[ing] the commission of a breach or attempted breach of immigration law…” . The Court followed R v Kakaei  EWCA Crim 503, which held that it was not illegal to approach Britain in order to claim asylum. If a person travels to the UK intending to enter and in fact entering legally (by arriving at an approved port area; being intercepted by UK Border Force and brought to the approved port area; or entering with leave of an immigration officer), they are not in breach of section 25. If a person intends to enter by any means, including illegally landing on a beach and fleeing, they will breach section 25. The convictions of the three men were unsafe because the jury was not asked to consider whether their boat entries were legal or illegal.
On the UKHRB:
- Johnathan Metzer rounds up the year with the most defining cases of 2021