Published On: Fri, Apr 10th, 2020

The coronavirus police state (3): Gathering, and gatekeeping

Peter Hitchens has been begging his Twitter audience to “stick strictly to rules”. He refers, presumably, to the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations (CRR), and evidently doesn’t want the Tory Executive of UK Government to have cause, this Easter weekend, to carry out a threat to ban the exercise allowance that is allegedly granted in the CRR.

One Twitter user, who from his output is at odds with Hitchens’ public-facing viewpoint, wrote some satire in response; ironically, this Twitter user, evidently drawing on the notion – popularly held by those of a certain disposition in the fake political paradigm – of Hitchens being a professional contrarian, doesn’t understand why Hitchens is not what he seems, but gets to nub of the issue regardless:

What peter really means is stick to the rules to saves lives. He doesn’t believe all the rubbish he spouts, it’s the character he plays and makes a living from. Keep up the good work peter, you’re helping the government keep people indoors this weekend.

Anyone who at least understands that saving lives is not what any lockdown is for, would ask the question: in asking people to adhere to the rules, does Hitchens want to protect them from the prospect of harsher lockdown, or does he want to protect the UK Government from challenge and appearing weak?

Let’s look at the tweet containing Hitchens’ plea (remembering it’s not the first time such a thing has been issued):

No, I am not a jogger. I ride a bicycle. I am continuing to do so, but greatly fear the disgraceful Collective Punishment threat of an exercise ban, made by Mr Hancock last Sunday. I beg everyone to stick strictly to rules this weekend, so this idiotic threat is not fulfilled.

The question that occurs to ask is: what is Hitchens’ problem? People flouting the rules are not members of the French Resistance who will be getting villagers collectively punished by firing squad for blowing up Nazi arms depots. Is the public generally being unreasonable in response to the UK Government’s lockdown? The answer has to be no. God only knows what a lot of cowards the British are, as World War II showed: more frightened of their own authorities than the prospect of dying fighting people they had no squabble with in a war that didn’t need to be fought.

So what is Hitchens’ problem? The answer is probably this: the UK Government could well do without a challenge to its so-called lockdown. It wouldn’t implement a real escalation, because it hasn’t even implemented the measures that Hitchens likes, in his language, to give the impression of as existing: people being under house arrest, for instance. There is no house arrest [because in a hoax, only the impression of one is required] – but don’t let the people know, and don’t let them find out by pushing against the psychological fence.

And so Hitchens reinforces the psychological barrier. Which rules, dear reader, do we suppose Hitchens refers to in his tweet? Because we are informed individuals, we would answer the CRR. However, most of Hitchens’ audience don’t know about the CRR. Most people, in general, know about the “lockdown” via corporate-media, whose output will undoubtedly consist of embellished reproduction (designed to terrify) of the guidance published on a Government webpage, which will be drawn up from the regulations as they are worded in the legislative documentation. Now, about that last translation: the Queen’s Counsels who wrote the paper on the CRR published by the Society of Conservative Lawyers (SCL) [that was the study of the previous article in this series (see link below)], say that the legislation has been misrepresented in the guidance (or the FAQ):

On 29th March the Government published on the internet a document labelled ‘Guidance’. Its title is Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do. That was a full three days after the making of the Regulations: so, there might be a reasonable expectation that there had been time for it to be drafted accurately.

Both the packaging and actual wording of the document conveys the message that it summarises the law. There is, of course, a significant difference between governmental exhortations to avoid activities which are against the public interest, and outright legal prohibitions against doing specified things….

The Regulations themselves are likely to have read by no more than a few thousand people. This FAQ, by contrast, will have been read by millions. It is, therefore, regrettable that it makes assertions as to the existence of legal restrictions which do not exist.

The rules that Hitchens would have people obey, then, are the ones that exist in popular imagination courtesy of the corporate-media, courtesy of a misrepresentation of the legislation. Moreover, the imploring not to challenge them lest something worse be unleashed consolidates the invincibility of the rules perceived in a state of ignorance.

Unfortunately, people love to be gatekept, and they love their shills and Judas goats, so it will be hard for them to come to terms with this: it’s precisely because police are not in fact empowered to keep people in their homes that Hitchens would like to see strict sticking to the rules. No, the gatekept would say, this is not being fair on Hitchens. So let us explore an avenue of rationalisation that would excuse him, to wit: the man just doesn’t want people to be idiots and take advantage of their permit to exercise to congregate together in public places and attract negative media coverage that will provoke the terrible ire of the mighty Matt Hancock.

Well, look. There is no legislation that prevents people congregating in a public place, and there is little that police can do about it. Why doesn’t Hitchens let anyone know about that? The answer is obvious.

The rule that purports to define how the public is restricted from gathering is the seventh one in the CRR. The SCL paper has little to say about Regulation 7, Gathering, except this:

Provided those provisions are interpreted sensibly we cannot see any principled objection to them.

Of course, the problem is that the provisions haven’t been interpreted sensibly. Police have been chasing people out of parks with no right to do it before Lord Sandhurst QC, and Anthony Speaight QC wrote the SCL paper, and these two men have made a mistake in not seeing Regulation 7 as being contentious.

The key sentence in the regulation is in the opening clause:

During the emergency period, no person may participate in a gathering in a public place of more than two people except…

It goes on to list things that people are not permitted to do in gatherings of more than two people. The important detail is that a “gathering of two” is nothing that should trouble the police. This means, if a park is full of couples and individuals, this is not a gathering of more than two, it is a coincidence of more than one gathering of no more than two (because each gathering has nothing to do with the other). And such a coincidence of people should be none of the business of the police.

To explain this more, let us delve a little into the Coronavirus Bill, which police will no doubt try to use in conjunction with the CCR to issue fines (as they already have tried). The pertinent part is Schedule 21 (for England only), Part 2, paragraph 5. The “direction” being mentioned is one made by the Secretary of State:

(2) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may be issued in relation to—

(a) a specified event or gathering, or

(b) events or gatherings of a specified description.

(3) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may only have the effect of imposing prohibitions, requirements or restrictions on—

(a) the owner or occupier of premises for an event or gathering to which the direction relates;

(b) the organiser of such an event or gathering;

(c) any other person involved in holding such an event or gathering.

This is telling us that a direction to prohibit made by the Secretary of State in respect of a specific gathering, or a type of gathering, is in fact made against an individual person so that there is an expectation of compliance on that person not to organise said specific or type of gathering.

Moreover, sub-paragraph 7 states:

The reference in sub-paragraph (3)(c) to a person involved in the holding of an event or gathering does not include a person whose only involvement in the event or gathering is, or would be, by attendance at the event or gathering.

What this means is that a person is not liable to be penalised by attending a gathering, because an offence is committed when the person to whom a direction is issued fails to comply, and an attendee does not fall into this category.

In addition, if a group of no more than two people find themselves, outdoors, in a coincidence of other suchlike groups, this is not a gathering as defined by the Coronavirus Bill because it lacks the quality of being organised. Moreover, a public place in the outdoors is not defined as a premises in Schedule 21: it is only places that are strictly defined as premises that are subject to closure or the imposition of restrictions on persons entering or remaining inside them.

Now, when it comes to dealing with people adjudged to be in violation of Regulation 7 of the CRR, it would appear that police would be acting illegally by chasing everyone away with warnings of penalties issued through a bullhorn. They could not be that indiscriminate. For example, they would need to handle a mass coincidence of gatherings of no more than two by dealing with each “gathering” on the grounds of Regulation 6. In other words, every individual or couple in a public place would need to be dealt with under Regulation 6 – and it has been shown that police have no power to do that.

As for a “gathering” of a group of more than two, this is indeed a violation under the regulations, and yet there isn’t a specified method for penalisation in Regulation 8, which is the rule that deals with enforcement of the regulations. How a constable may deal with someone he decides is guilty of the violation is covered in this one line:

A relevant person may take such action as is necessary to enforce any requirement imposed by regulation 4, 5 or 7.

It appears to mean that police have arbitrary power – but is a constable really going to shoot, for instance, three citizens who are discovered in a public place together? Obviously, it cannot be right. On top of this – and as discussed in the previous article – police do not have to require reasonable grounds to do whatever they want to do with a violator. This is highly dubious to the nth degree, and given the doubts expressed in the SCL paper, liable to fail the first time it is tested.

In the end, if a society regulates behaviour because it is fearful of how it might displease its authorities, then it’s one that belongs under a Pharaoh – and the author is not surprised of Hitchens that this is how he would have things. On the other hand, here at FBEL it is felt that being familiar with the sets of coronavirus legislation will empower citizens to conduct themselves in quietly lawful ways that will prove to be disempowering of the UK Government, and at the same time prevent it from exploiting its lockdown situation into something that would provide excuse for yet more draconian measures. Weakness, as the FBEL reader probably knows, is not answered with mercy by villains. Strength is what makes the bully back down.

Previously: The coronavirus police state (2): The illusion of police powers under Regulations 6 & 8 of Coronavirus Restrictions (link).

Next: The coronavirus police state (4): pushing back against the business shutdown and loan racket (link).

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  1. Greg Bacon says:

    What we’re seeing here is a controlled demolition of the world’s economy. On 9/11, that type of planned destruction led to nearly 19 years of “Let’s kill Muzzies” fear that worked wonderfully for those asshats that were behind the 9/11 False Flag.

    Now the same schlockmeisters are back, and this time, they’re hiding the Wall Street pigs greed of not being able to support the 1.5 QUADRILLION derivatives bets from collapsing and taking down Wall Street and markets all over the West, but we don’t hear about those bad bets being covered, we’re being told endlessly, “You’re going to DIE unless you give up civil liberties and get a Bill Gates approved vaccine!”

T-shirts to protest compulsory face coverings - click image