It has emerged that an appeal has ruled that a person who was suspected of breaching the coronavirus regulations was not required by law to give the police their name and address. At the High Court in Cardiff, Keith Neale who is a 60-year-old homeless man had his conviction for obstructing a police officer by failing to give over his details quashed.
This is being cited as an important judgment regarding the legal duties of citizens under the coronavirus regulations. Mrs Justice Steyn and Lord Justice Dingemans were the Justice’s who have ruled that Mr Neale was under no common law obligation or statutory duty to give the police his name and address.
Currently, almost a third of prosecutions made under the coronavirus regulations have been dropped. Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service have shown that 359 of 1,252 charges last year were either withdrawn or quashed in court.
Mr Neale had previously been found guilty at Newport Magistrates’ Court for wilfully obstructing a police constable by declining to give his name and address when he was sat on a bench. Patrick Ormerod was the solicitor at Bindmans who acted for Mr Neale. He has said: ‘As the High Court stated, the courts should be wary of expanding police powers by implication – where parliament has chosen to compel speech it has done so expressly. The absence of an express obligation to give a name and address in the Coronavirus Regulations powerfully demonstrates that it does not exist’.
He went on to say: ‘There is no general common law duty to assist the police by answering questions and a person cannot be guilty of wilfully obstructing a police officer by declining to do so where there is no specific legal duty’.