Media By: darraghcoffey


The Coronavirus Act 2020: When Legislation Goes Viral (Part Two)

10 April 2020 by

A lone cyclist crosses Trafalgar Square during the current lockdown. Image: The Guardian

Note: In Part One, I set out what I considered to be the Government’s rationale in enacting the Coronavirus Act 2020 rather than relying on existing legislation. In a piece for Law Society Gazette Dr Andrew Blick and Prof. Clive Walker have sought to rebut this rationale and argued that the Government should more appropriately have used Civil Contingencies Act 2004.

In Part One, I considered the background to the Coronavirus Act 2020 and some general aspects of the legislation. Here, I focus on some of the substantive provisions of the legislation and briefly explore the role that human rights law has to play in the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

At this point it bears repeating that the UK Government has not derogated from the ECHR under Article 15. Thus, any measures introduced in response to the Coronavirus must be compatible with the UK’s full human rights obligations under the Convention as transposed in to domestic law via the Human Rights Act 1998. Jeremy McBride has produced an excellent piece on the ECHR Blog, in which he analyses the range of various responses to the COVID-19 crisis through the lens of the Convention obligations. Such an exercise is not possible here due to constraints of space. However, towards the end of this piece I will briefly consider the compatibility of the lockdown restrictions on movement with the UK’s ECHR obligations.


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The Coronavirus Act 2020: When Legislation Goes Viral (Part One)

2 April 2020 by

Police in Brighton prepare to enforce social distancing. Image: The Guardian

At this point, it is almost trite to say that we are living through unprecedented events. The global spread of the Coronavirus pandemic poses serious challenges to society. So far, the global death-toll has exceeded 21,000 and life as we know it in the UK has changed dramatically. In response to this crisis the Government has announced drastic measures in order to curb the spread of the virus and to support those who may be affected. Indeed, it seems that Cicero’s famous injunction to let the welfare of the people be the highest law has gained a new relevance in the age of COVID-19.

As readers of this blog will probably know, a significant plank of the Government’s legislative response is the Coronavirus Act 2020, which received royal assent on 25 March having been fast-tracked through Parliament. This substantial piece of legislation –which consists of 102 Sections, 29 Schedules and runs to just under 360 pages– is intended to deal with the various challenges that may be posed by the Coronavirus epidemic. As a result, its provisions are broad ranging, touching on areas as diverse as powers to disperse gatherings, pensions, sick pay, inquests and investigatory powers to name but a few.


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Coroner not required to investigate identities of Birmingham bombers

2 October 2018 by

 

Coroner for the Birmingham Inquests v Hambleton & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 2081 (26 September 2018)

 

At an inquest, the Coroner must investigate four things: the identity of the deceased and how, when and where they came by their death. Ordinarily, the question ‘how the deceased came by their death’ means ‘by what means’ they came by their death (R v. North Humberside Coroner, ex parte Jamieson [1995] QB 1).

However, in some cases, an enhanced investigative duty arises. When the death under investigation may have involved a failure by the state to fulfil its positive obligations under Article 2 of the ECHR, the interpretation of ‘how’ must be expanded to include an inquiry into the ‘circumstances in which the deceased came by his or her death’.

Coroner for the Birmingham Inquests (1974) v. Hambleton & Ors. [2018] EWCA Civ 2081 involved such an inquest. The central question for the Court of Appeal (composed of a panel including the Lord Chief Justice and the Vice-President of the Criminal Division of the Court) was whether, as part of his investigation into the deaths of the 21 victims of the 1974 Birmingham bombings, the Coroner was required to call evidence directed at identifying those responsible for the bombings. The Court of Appeal decided that, in this case, the Coroner was not so obliged.

One Crown Office Row’s Peter Skelton QC, Mathew Hill and Gideon Barth appeared on behalf of the Coroner. They were not involved in writing this post.

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