OMDDAC Submits Evidence to Justice Select Committee on ‘COVID-19 and the Criminal Law’

OMDDAC has responded to a call for evidence from the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into COVID-19 and the criminal law.

This inquiry is examining the way in which the UK government has created new offences, how the criminal law has been adapted to deal with the pandemic, and how covid-19 offences have been enforced, applied and reviewed by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts.

OMDDAC’s submission is based primarily on interviews with key stakeholders from a range of sectors. It covers the monitoring of enforcement of Covid-19 criminal offences, data quality and hidden crimes, access by the police to public health data, and public protest.

Executive Summary:

  • Best practice in the monitoring of crime and enforcement trends at the local level should be disseminated and adopted nationally, allowing for better identification of disproportionality in the enforcement response to the pandemic;
  • Omissions in datasets can themselves tell a story relating to ‘hidden crimes’ such as domestic abuse and child abuse given difficulties of reporting during the pandemic;
  • New guidance around policing of protests and public gatherings during public health restrictions should be developed, with input from a range of voices, including those with human rights experience, representatives of particular communities and interest groups and representatives of police forces nationally to ensure diversity of opinion;
  • The Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Health and Social Care and the National Police Chiefs’ Council should be published to enable further scrutiny of the use of public health and testing data by the police and its use in the context of policing pandemic restrictions, protest and public meetings, and other current or future policing activities such as possible enforcement of the use of ‘vaccine passports.’