From special powers to legislating the lockdown: the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

Authors

  • Daniel Holder Committee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast

Keywords:

COVID-19, emergency legislation, Northern Ireland, Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, Special Powers Acts, Black Lives Matter, Common Travel Area, inquests

Abstract

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 were made through temporarily inserted provisions by Westminster’s vast and rushed Coronavirus Act 2020. This itself limits duties to notify deaths to the coroner, despite Article 2 European Convention on Human Rights duties being particularly relevant to deaths in care homes and of frontline workers. The regularly amended March 2020 Northern Ireland regulations have themselves raised ‘legal certainty’ issues. Until June, official websites carried no accessible information as to their scope. Initial concerns on lack of clarity over matters such as driving for exercise gave way to greater controversy regarding the application of the regulations to the Black Lives Matter protests on 6 June 2020 through Police Service of Northern Ireland powers that had only been extended through an eleventh hour amendment the night before. The enforcement powers themselves are so widely drafted that they are reminiscent of the Special Powers Acts of the past. These issues are explored in this article.

Published

2020-07-06