2. Coronavirus police powers and their use on protests

The most relevant aspect of the law is that relating to gatherings.

It is currently prohibited under the Coronavirus regulations to participate in a gathering of more than 6 people. If the police “consider” that this rule is being broken they have the power to:

  • Direct the gathering to disperse

  • Direct participants to return home

  • Use “reasonable force” to take a participant back to their home.

If the police consider that you have broken this rule they also have the power to:

Either – Issue you a Fixed Penalty Notice (£50 for a first offence, rising if you have received previous fines up to a maximum of £3200)

Or – Arrest you on suspicion of having broken the Coronavirus regulations. If successfully convicted under this legislation, the maximum penalty is a fine.

A Fixed Penalty Notice is not a criminal record, and will not show up on DBS checks, whereas a conviction could do.

So far, these powers have been used very variably at protests. Netpol’s Policing the Corona State blog has more details of how they have been used, and you can also contact Netpol with your experiences.

If you have been arrested or issued a Fixed Penalty Notice at a demonstration since 26th March 2020, please contact courtsupport@protonmail.com or call 07946541511

Key Messages


COVID-19 has lead to changes in policing & protest law which may affect the information in this guide. Please also read our guide to Coronavirus & Protest Law.

  • No Comment
  • You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.

  • No Personal Details
  • You don't have to give details under ANY stop and search power.

  • No Duty Solicitor
  • Use a recommended solicitor with protest experience.

  • No Caution
  • They admit guilt for an alleged offence that might never get to court.

  • What Power?
  • Ask "What power?" to challenge a police officer to act lawfully.