FAQs - Police Powers

FAQs in relation to Police Powers.

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What powers do police have under the new legislation?

The UK and Scottish Governments have introduced separate pieces of legislation in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. This has been done to save lives and protect the NHS.

Each piece of legislation contains separate powers for Scottish officers that enables them to help ensure that the current restrictions in place across the country are being followed. The fundamental principles of both pieces of legislation are to reduce transmission and keep people safe.

Why are the powers needed?

The powers are necessary to help manage the spread of COVID-19 by providing public health officers, constables and immigration officers with the tools they will need if people do not comply with social distancing restrictions or, for example, requests to undergo screening and assessment, or requests to self-isolate.

How will you use the powers?

Police Scotland is founded upon public service and operates under the fundamental principle of policing by consent.

The powers granted under the Coronavirus Act will enable officers to fulfil their duty to uphold the law and keep the public safe.

Our officers will continue to engage with the public in a positive and constructive tone as we support our colleagues in the health service at this extraordinary time. The powers being afforded to our officers will be used as a last resort and only where people are defying very clear and sensible advice, which is designed to protect them from harm.

Officers will:

Engage: ask whether an individual is aware of the government request; establish individual circumstances and how quickly someone can comply

Explain: the risks to public health and to the NHS in line with government guidance

Encourage: voluntary compliance

Enforce: if faced with non-compliance and only as a last resort.

We will use the enforcement powers as a last resort only where people continue to defy the clear advice being given by the government and our colleagues in the health service. We will do so in a fair, reasonable and proportionate manner.

The government has instructed people to stay at home except for a very small number of reasons to address this absolutely unique and extraordinary time in our history.

We are relying on everybody, collectively, to duty their duty and adhere to these guidelines to protect their fellow citizens, ease the strain on the health service, and collectively save lives.

What does ‘kept’, ‘remove’ and ‘taken into custody’ mean in the Bill / Act?

This is not an arrest, it is a limited form of custody where police have care and control of a person to ensure their compliance with any direction or restriction.

Will you be deploying officers to beaches and other beauty spots?

Our local policing divisions have developed plans bespoke to their areas. Our officers will be out and about to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation.

Can you stop people travelling long distances to beaches and other beauty spots or to see family?

The Scottish Government has urged people to be responsible and avoid travelling long distances so that they do need to use indoor facilities, such as toilets. The purpose of the restrictions and the guidance is to prevent the transmission of the virus.

However, there has never been any legal ban on anyone travelling on the roads, and people can now spend as much time as they want outdoors for recreation, so there is no enforcement role for the police around travel. The Chief Constable has previously made it clear that we will not be routinely stopping vehicles.

There is still a role for the police in enforcing legislation, including on the updated restrictions on public gatherings, and we will continue to do this by engaging, explaining, encouraging and, only as a last resort, enforcing the law.

Are you policing social distancing?

No, this is Scottish Government guidance, not regulations. The police have no power to enforce guidance. People need to take individual responsibility for following the guidance, remembering that it is designed to stop the virus spreading.