Tier travel advice is mere guidance, not law - YEP letters

FROM: Chris Cousins, Leeds

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 6:00 am
The government has issued guidance for people travelling between different tiers in England, but some police forces have been stopping people at borders to ask why they're travelling. Picture: PA.

I NOTE that the recent change in the coronavirus restrictions seems to be causing some confusion in the minds of North Yorkshire Police.

Superintendent Mike Walker of that force is quoted as saying: “I would encourage residents to consult the relevant Government guidance for their area and ensure they are aware of what they can and can’t do.”

Supt Walker seems to be confusing guidance, which does not have the force of law, and regulation, which does.

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The legal restrictions imposed on members of the public are set out in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020. They do not impose travel restrictions within England.

The Government has supplemented the regulations by guidance, and that guidance does clearly ask members of the public in a Tier 3 area to avoid travelling outside their area other than for a list of reasons, including work, education etc.

It should be stressed, however, that this is guidance: it is not a legal requirement that the public follow it .

If the Government had wanted to impose travel restrictions as a legal requirement, it could have included them in the latest version of the regulations. It has chosen not to do so.

It is not for North Yorkshire Police to seek to convert guidance into regulation. It is, of course, correct that the effect of the Tier 3 regulations travels with the person, so if a member of the public travels from Tier 3 to Tier 2 and visits a pub or restaurant, they are breaking the law.

However to travel across the border, as thousands do every day, to go for a walk on your own, with your dog, or with members of your own household remains legal as, indeed, it has been throughout the whole of this difficult period. Is the walker from Addingham who ascends Beamsley Beacon likely to find a police officer with a fixed penalty notice waiting for them on their descent? If this approach to policing is to become permanent, can we look forward to police being stationed in restaurants, to question customers about whether or not they have eaten their “five a day” or to urge them not to have pudding? That’s government guidance, and would undoubtedly be good for our health.