British police are calling for expanded powers to enforce the coronavirus lockdown rules, including the authority to forcefully enter private residences suspected of hosting forbidden gatherings.
Under the current law, the police only have the right to enter a private residence with a warrant, or with the permission of its occupant, or in active pursuit of a suspected criminal, or to investigate a disturbance, or if they hear cries for help. However, the Police Federation of England and Wales is seeking draconian unprecedented powers from the government to allow them to enter citizens’ homes without a warrant to stop suspected house parties during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have asked they consider giving us powers around private gatherings or gatherings in a private dwelling. We have no right to enter a property and say: stop having a party,” a police federation source told The Telegraph.
“Some officers are having to work round it using other legislation that wasn’t designed for it,” the source added.
Law enforcement offices across the country have been flooded with reports of house parties from neighbours, with Greater Manchester Police disclosing that they received 494 reports from residents of suspected parties during the first week of the national lockdown.
A British police force has set up a website for the public to inform on people suspected of breaking the national lockdown rules. https://t.co/5IhfjNPtzd
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) March 30, 2020
Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to block the request for warrantless searches of households. Ms Patel has called on police to refrain from adopting a “heavy-handed” approach to enforcing the lockdown.
“It would be a really big step for policing in this country that isn’t needed at this point,” a source inside the Home Office told The Telegraph. The source added: “If there are people at parties or BBQs the police can issue the fixed penalty notice as they travel to or from the party.”
The British government did permit a change to the Air Navigation Order of 2016, easing restrictions on the police’s ability to use drones as a means of dispersing illegal gatherings and spreading messages of health warnings. A similar move has already been implemented in France, Italy, Spain, Israel, and China.
Last month, Derbyshire Police was widely criticised after they posted a video of a police drone informing dog-walkers in the Peak District to go home as exercising in a park was “not essential”.
In response to the updated drone guidelines, the director of Big Brother Watch Silkie Carlo told The Times: “Drones are an extreme, militaristic form of surveillance. We’ve seen too many examples of police using them aggressively in place of measured public health communications.”
“Police using drones to surveil and bark orders at members of the public is usually excessive and counterproductive. Parliament should introduce stronger safeguards to circumscribe their use,” she added.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 26, 2020
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