How might the Coronavirus Regulations Impact Activists in Wales

Alert Level 1, 2, 3, 4 Coronavirus Regulations

An Introduction

Coronavirus regulations in Wales are at Alert Level Four from 19th December 2020. This is a very significant change to the situation during the time when the last set of national Welsh regulations came into force from 9th November 2020. During the period between 9th November and the imposition of Alert Level Four, it was possible under limited circumstances to exercise the right to protest as long as a specific set of guidance regulations was followed. This has now changed completely! Previous versions of the Coronavirus Regulations have been replaced by a new set of regulations (The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020), in which the regulations are broken down into 4 Alert Levels (Alert Level 1, 2, 3 and 4). The whole of Wales is currently in Alert Level 4. The following is current as of 10th January 2021

Welsh legislation in relation to coronavirus restrictions has, since our last update, been amended on 19th, 21st and 29th December 2020, but those amendments do not affect protestors.

The current regulations are very similar to the Tier 4 restrictions placed on some parts of England, in terms of protesting. It seems that the only difference in the regulations when looking at it from the perspective of protestors is the name ('Alert Level 4' rather than 'Tier 4'). See here for the Tier 4 restrictions in England (scroll down on the page), which are very similar to the regulations for Wales. 

The rules on organised activities

In Wales taking part in regulated outdoor activities is now not allowed. It is no longer permitted for a responsible organiser to carry out a risk assessment and facilitate a limited and regulated gathering. In other words, organised protest activities are banned.

The stark rules for the time being whilst Alert Level Four is in place are designed to minimize all contact between individuals, and keep all people at home unless leaving for a reasonable excuse. Taking part in any organised activity is no longer listed as a reasonable excuse for leaving home.

Enforcement

The restrictions are being enforced primarily by local authority enforcement  officers and the police. The enforcement officers can issue fixed penalty notices or recommend prosecution in the magistrates court. In addition they have wide-ranging powers to take practical steps to disperse gatherings, tell people to go home and enter property. The police in Wales have been recommended to engage with people, explain what they need to do and encourage them to comply. However they also have powers to enforce the regulations if people don’t respond.

A fixed penalty notice (FPN) can be issued for most types of breaches of the regulations carrying a fine of £60 (£30 if paid within 14 days) increasing to £120 for a second offence and continuing to double for repeated offences up to a maximum of £1920 (sixth offence onwards). If prosecuted, a court can impose any fine and is not limited.

Organising events is considered to be unlawful and doing so carries a penalty of £500 for a first offence and doubling for any subsequent offences up to a maximum of £4000 (fourth offence onwards). There are also specific additional penalties for organises of unlicensed musical events, where the FPN is £10,000

Conclusion

These regulations are brand new and are untested in the courts. That means that the way in which the police will interpret them is unpredictable. 

As always, care should be taken to look at the relevant regulations in place as the regulations change very frequently. This note is necessarily vague and cannot be relied on as advice. This site will be updated in line with any relevant changes in Welsh government guidelines.