Police who attempt to break up family Christmas gatherings that break coronavirus lockdown restrictions have no power to do so, a legal expert has stated.
With many parts of England now under tiered restrictions that ban separate households from mixing indoors, West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said officers would investigate reports of rule-breaking over the festive period.
He told The Telegraph: “If we think there’s large groups of people gathering where they shouldn’t be, then police will have to intervene. If, again, there’s flagrant breaking of the rules, then the police would have to enforce.”
The police have no power of entry under the Tier 2 (or 1 and 3) regulations. They would have to be invited into homes to exercise their power to disperse gatherings https://t.co/s0WTM5il2R
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) October 27, 2020
However, human rights lawyer Adam Wagner dismissed the warning, saying that the police “have no power of entry under the Tier 2 (or 1 and 3) regulations”.
He tweeted: “They would have to be invited into homes to exercise their power to disperse gatherings. Or have a warrant.”
‘Far too early’
It comes as the government was urged by politicians from all four nations in the UK – including Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey – to make the rules the same for the whole country at Christmas, allowing people to visit their loved ones.
But environment secretary George Eustice said this morning that it was “far too early” to set out guidelines about Christmas – and suggested the government is prepared to prevent large families meeting.
Watch: ‘Too early to say’ how Britons will be able to celebrate Christmas
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a rapidly developing situation and we are making judgements all the time about what restrictions might be needed and what’s appropriate to have as restrictions in a particular area.
“It’s far too early to say exactly where things will be by Christmas, but the prime minister’s made clear he wants people to be able to have a Christmas that’s as close to possible as normal.”
Rejecting demands from the Liberal Democrats to plan coronavirus restrictions up to the Christmas period now, Eustice acknowledged that families living under different tiers may not be allowed to meet on Christmas Day.
He added: “We should set our guidelines, not as the Lib Dems say based on Christmas is coming, we should set our guidelines based on the epidemiology of this virus and follow the science and respond to emerging situations in a proportionate way.”
His comments come after BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire apologised on Tuesday after she admitted she would break the rule of six if it was still in place by Christmas.
Eustice said mixing between families who live in areas with different tier restrictions is “not provided for currently”, suggesting that they would not be able to meet on Christmas Day.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the government’s failure to use the half-term for a circuit-breaker lockdown means they now need to “do something quickly to save Christmas”.
Speaking on Times Radio this morning, Ashworth said government sources are planning for a Tier 3 lockdown in most areas of the country “at some point in November”.
When asked if he thought families would be able to meet in groups of more than six on Christmas Day, he said: “That’s in the hands of all of us, and in the hands of the decisions it (the government) makes in the next week or so about what they’re going to do to get on top of this virus.
“I think because they’ve missed this window of opportunity over the half term, I’m worried now that what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action over November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.”
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said last week that “radical action” is needed so that families can see each other on Christmas Day.
“He added: “The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence – at the very least in high incidence areas – and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts.
“The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme.”
Watch: What is long COVID?
Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter