FRI, APR 17, 2020 14:3
Official advice given to prosecutors and police forces on interpreting emergency legislation during coronavirus pandemic
New guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on enforcement of emergency legislation in England aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus states that exercising more than once a day is likely to be a reasonable excuse for leaving the house, as is driving to undertake exercise.
News of the guidance comes after foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed yesterday that the current lockdown across the UK would continue in force for a further three weeks, with no changes to existing rules.
Under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, reasons people may leave their home include to undertake exercise, provided it is done alone or with household members.
But the absence of any stipulation in the legislation of duration or distance of any exercise, not to mention whether multiple sessions are allowed during the day has led to confusion since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the rules on 23 March.
Now, the CPS has produced guidance to police forces in England – legislation is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and may vary slightly – over what is likely to constitute a reasonable excuse for leaving the house, and what is not.
The CPS guidance has been republished here by the College of Policing and National Police Chiefs Council, who say: “Some public statements made soon after the adoption of the Regulations suggested that members of the public could only leave their homes if ‘essential’ to do so.
“However, this is not the test set out in the Regulations and there is no legal basis for a requirement in those terms to be imposed. The applicable threshold is that of ‘reasonable excuse’.”
They point out, however, that “each case still needs to be considered based on the individual facts as they present themselves,” and that the list “is not exhaustive and officers are required to use their discretion and judgement in deciding what is and what isn’t ‘reasonable’ in the circumstances.”
Under the heading of “Exercise,” the CPS says that activities that are “likely to be reasonable” include “going for a run or cycle or practising yoga, walking in the countryside or in cities,” and “attending an allotment.”
Also deemed “likely to be reasonable” are the following:
Driving to countryside and walking (where far more time is spent walking than driving).
Stopping to rest or to eat lunch while on a long walk.
Exercising more than once per day – the only relevant consideration is whether repeated exercise on the same day can be considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home.
According to the CPS, activities that are “not likely to be reasonable” are:
Driving for a prolonged period with only brief exercise.
A short walk to a park bench, when the person remains seated for a much longer period.
In comments to the guidance, the CPS says: “Exercise can come in many forms, including walks. Exercise must involve some movement, but it is acceptable for a person to stop for a break in exercise.
“However, a very short period of ‘exercise’ to excuse a long period of inactivity may mean that the person is not engaged in ‘exercise’ but in fact something else.
“It is lawful to drive for exercise,” the CPS adds.