Ministers can’t have been surprised by reports that Wayne Couzens may have abused Covid rules when he kidnapped Sarah Everard – they were urged in the same month to “roll back the extensive powers unwisely handed to the state” and to the police. The Telegraph has the story.
Mark Harper, the Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said the Coronavirus Act, contained “some of the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history, giving the police and other officials the power to detain us, potentially indefinitely”.
The concerns were not just that the laws gave officers powers to intervene in everyday activities like leaving home, going shopping or visiting friends but also that there was confusion among the public and even police about what people could and could not do.
It was this that Couzens, 48, apparently exploited when he used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms. Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3rd.
He had worked with other officers on Covid patrols to enforce the regulations and, according to the prosecution, he was “therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may have breached them”.
“The fact she [Sarah Everard] had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable to and/or more likely to submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the Covid regulations in some way, by going to a friend’s home that evening.”
When Ms. Everard set off for home, the U.K. was still in its third national lockdown, which required people to remain at home and only leave for a narrow set of reasons such as exercising once a day.
Throughout the lockdown, police chiefs had been sensitive to the potential of their new powers to breach the central tenet of British policing that it is based on the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state.
“We don’t want to have a society when you step out the door there is a cop saying: ‘Where are you going?’” said Stephen White, then Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham.
Worth reading in full.