In the UK we have a long history of policing by consent, and this is underpinned by human rights, freedom and civil liberties.

Coronavirus has brought about regular changes to the law and strict restrictions on everyday life which has challenged these rights and increased the likelihood of interactions with the police. 

For many this may be their first and only interaction with the law, it can be intimidating and hard to know your rights, particularly when the law is so changeable. 

In implementing the new laws the police have been briefed to follow the 4 E’s in their engagement with the public. Engage, Explain, Encourage and only Enforce as a last resort. Therefore, in some circumstances, if you are inadvertently breaching a new law, they may explain the issue and encourage you to comply.

If you refuse, are deliberately not complying, or have offended before they are more likely to move to enforcement. This may be in the form of fines up to £10,000 or criminal proceedings. In the case of enforcement, you should consider seeking legal advice from a solicitor, and consider any impact on your studies or career, our Information and Advice Service can help you with this.

Know your rights

Liberty are a non-profit company which exists 'to challenge injustice, defend freedom and campaigns to make sure everyone in the UK is treated fairly.'  They have published several resources which may help you understand your rights depending on your circumstances which are linked below; 

  • Coronavirus - know your rights. Liberty has been updating this resource with each change in the law. The page will show the date of the most recent update. 
  • Stop and Account - this is the power for a police officer to ask you questions about who you are and what you are doing.  Most of the time you have the legal right to refuse to answer (unless the police believe you are or have engaged in anti-social behaviour) however the Coronavirus laws have changed this.
  • Stop and Search – this is the power, normally with ‘reasonable grounds’ to stop and search you. The police must give their name, police station, tell you what they expect to find, explain the reasons and make a record of the search (unless not practical).  You have a right to these records. They have to do this fairly and respect your rights under the Equality Act (2010).
  • Arrest – the power of arrest exists if an officer has good reason to think you have committed a crime and in arresting you they can help investigate, establish your name or prevent injury.  You have the right to free legal advice, medical help, to tell someone where you are and to see the rules the police must follow. 
To make a complaint about any interactions with the police, click here.