While the new coronavirus police powers are meant to be temporary, it would be easy for senior officers to make the argument to keep them indefinitely, Brexit leader Nigel Farage has warned, revealing he will campaign for Britons to regain their liberties as soon as possible.
Writing that he’d “found my next campaign”, Mr Farage — who has a strong track record of fighting long-term attritional campaigns against vested interests, as in the case of building support to take Britain out of the European Union from a niche movement in the early 1990s to a nationwide referendum victory by 2016 — said some police officers were behaving in an “appalling” way.
Noting the hypocrisy of officers chasing Britons off their own beaches, even when well isolated from other leisure-makers, while the government brings hundreds of illegal boat migrants ashore off Kent during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Farage asked: “How can such a glaring inconsistency exist when the Government expects to secure continued public support for the lockdown – particularly when elements of the police force are so heavy-handed? Frankly, I am beginning to wonder if some officers are actively enjoying wielding their newly minted powers.”
The Brexit leader wrote in his in a Daily Telegraph column:
Yes, I do want to fight this horrible disease. Indeed, I was one of the first people to condemn publicly the Government’s herd immunity strategy. But I do not want to live under a house detention regime or for this country to be remoulded into a police state.
Boris Johnson has now left hospital, news which has certainly brightened up Easter. When he is fully recovered, I expect to see a gradual easing of the lockdown. I fear, however, that the arbitrary powers now given to the police may remain in place for a long time to come. Why? Because I can envisage the argument being advanced by the police that many of their powers must be retained in case another pandemic strikes.
Mr Farage’s concern at the grasping for additional powers by police follows extraordinary remarks of Northamptonshire police chief Nick Adderley last week, who warned citizens that if they didn’t start heeding his advice, he would deploy officers to supermarkets to snoop on shoppers, checking their purchases. The comments were withdrawn shortly afterwards, Adderley claiming he’d been misunderstood.
In the latest demands, senior police officers are asking for new powers to enter dwellings without a warrant, under the pretext of policing the coronavirus lockdown.
The comments follow others by senior jurist Lord Sumption, who retired as a UK Supreme Court judge in 2018, and who has voiced strongly worded concerns about the lockdown. Warning “this is what a police state looks like”, Lord Sumption wrote “Liberty and the rule of law are surely worth something even in the face of a pandemic” and told the BBC:
The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform, they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating at the government’s command. And yet in some parts of the country, the police have been trying to stop people from doing things like travelling to take exercise in the open country, which are not contrary to the regulations, [but] simply because ministers have said they would prefer us not to.
The police have no power to enforce minister’s preferences, but only legal regulations, which don’t go anything like as far as the government’s guidance. I have to say the behaviour of the Derbyshire police in trying to shame people into using their undoubted right to travel to take exercise in the country, and wrecking beauty spots in the fells so that people don’t want to go there is frankly disgraceful.
This is what a police state is like — it is a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority, and the police enforce minister’s wishes.