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Government issues regulations for new enforcement notices local authorities can issue in bid to reduce public health risk of Covid-19

The Government has published the regulations for three new notices local authorities in England will be able issue to reduce the public health risk posed by the coronavirus.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Local Authority Enforcement Powers and Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (the enforcement regulations) have been issued under emergency procedures and come into force tomorrow (2 December).

The main provisions of the statutory instrument introduce a Coronavirus Improvement Notice, a Coronavirus Restriction Notice and a Coronavirus Immediate Restriction Notice.

These can be issued by local authority officers to any person who breaches specified requirements of named Coronavirus regulations.

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Breach of a notice issued under the enforcement regulations is an offence, albeit liability for the same can be evaded by payment of a fixed penalty notice.

The Explanatory Memorandum says: “These additional powers enable local authorities to quickly request improvement, close or restrict unsafe activity in premises that do not meet Covid-19-secure requirements [as listed in regulation 2].

“Enforcement authorities will continue to take a proportionate approach to breaches identified but the regulations give options to enforcement authorities before closing premises, ensuring that business are given the opportunity to improve compliance, except for in instances where a closure of the premises is necessary and proportionate to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

The different notices are as follows:

  • Coronavirus Improvement Notices (CINs): regulation 3 enables a local authority designated officer to issue a CIN requiring a person who is breaching, or has breached, one of the provisions listed in regulation 2 to end that breach and ensure it will not be repeated. “This will often be the first step for local authority enforcement officers to encourage businesses to remedy unsafe practices.” A CIN will be applied for a minimum of 48 hours; its actual duration will be at the discretion of the local authority enforcement officer. Failure to comply with a CIN during its operational period could lead to a fixed penalty notice of £2,000 and/or a Coronavirus Restriction Notice (see below) being issued.
  • Coronavirus Immediate Restriction Notices (CIRNs): regulation 4 enables a local authority designated officer to issue a CIRN on the person the officer believes is breaching, or has breached, one of the statutory provisions listed in regulation 2 and there is a future risk of exposure to Coronavirus. The notice is to require closure or part-closure of the premises and/or the breach to be stopped. “Any requirement must be necessary and proportionate for the purpose of minimising the risk of exposure to Coronavirus.” The notice has effect for 48 hours. A CIRN can be issued by enforcement officers “where rapid action is needed to close premises without first issuing a CIN to reduce the spread of the virus”. Where necessary, a local authority can decide to issue a Coronavirus Restriction Notice at the end of the 48 hours, so that the premises is required to close for a further 7-day period. Failure to comply with a CIRN will result in a fixed penalty notice of £4,000 being issued, which can be issued multiple times for each breach.
  • Coronavirus Restriction Notices (CRNs): regulation 5 enables a local authority designated officer to issue a CRN on a person the officer believes has not complied with a CIN and that non-compliance involves a risk of exposure to Covid-19. The notice is to require either closure or part-closure of the premises and/or the breach to be stopped. “Any requirement must be necessary and proportionate for the purpose of minimising the risk of exposure to Covid-19." The notice has effect for seven days. Failure to comply with a CRN will result in a fixed penalty notice of £4,000 being issued, which can be issued multiple times for each breach.

Prosecutions can be brought under part 2 of these regulations by a local authority, the Crown Prosecution Service and any person designated by the Secretary of State. Regulation 8 provides that a local authority designation officer may issue a fixed penalty notice on a person.

Appeals against the notices, or a review of such notices, can be made to a magistrates’ court within 28 days of the notice being issued or the review decisions being notified to the person on whom the notice was issued.

None of the notices are to be issued in relation to essential infrastructure.

The enforcement regulations also make amendments to a number of Coronavirus regulations to further the aims of the statutory instrument.

The statutory instrument will case to have effect at the end of the period of six months beginning on the day on which it comes into force.

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