8th September 2020, 20:21
New legislation, in the fight against Covid-19 gives the Commissioner of Police the power to ask people organising or planning to attend a gathering of over 20 people not to do so. Amendments to the Civil Contingencies state that anyone who does not comply is liable to a fine of up to 10 thousand pounds or imprisonment for up to three months.
Legislation on restrictions on gatherings came into force in August and it became a criminal offence for a person to participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 20 people, although there are exceptions.
A police officer has the power to break up the gathering. Those who don't comply, could be liable to a fine of up to ten thousand pounds.
The new amendments now give the Commissioner of Police the power to give a direction in writing to those who he reasonably believes to be organising or planning to attend a gathering requiring them not to do so.
Any person who has received a direction from the Commissioner and contrary to the direction organises or takes part in a gathering, commits a criminal offence, as does anyone who encourages or assists another to commit that offence.
These offences may also now be dealt with by means of a fixed penalty notice. The fixed penalty for offences not involving directions in writing by the Commissioner of Police is one hundred pounds. The fixed penalty for organising or taking part in a gathering after having received a written direction, or encouraging or assisting another to commit that offence, is a thousand pounds.
Police Commissioner Richard Ullger has welcomed the move saying that while upholding and recognising people’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, in the current public health crisis and acting on advice from the Director of Public Health and the Civil Contingencies Committee, it's sensible that legislation should be put into effect to give the RGP the appropriate instruments to be able to police demonstrations or illegal gatherings effectively and prevent situations which may put the health of the public at risk.
He urges the public to use other means to express their concerns- be it via social media and other telecommunications outlets which do not carry the risk of spreading the virus.