Covid enforcement officers are being hired by councils which are granting spy powers to allow them to catch suspected rule-breakers in the act. The officers can conduct operations ‘covertly or overtly’ to ensure people are abiding by Government restrictions – such as the 10pm curfew and rule of six – aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. They can take part in plainclothes operations and use body-worn cameras and other kit to gather evidence against suspected rule flouters. Unlike Covid marshals who use a lighter touch, they have the power to investigate alleged breaches.
Details of the new roles emerged as West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said police could break up rule-breakers’ Christmas dinners. However, human rights lawyer Adam Wagner responded by saying police have no power of entry under the coronavirus legislation. Privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch has said the enhanced roles amounted to ‘undercover officers’ who would be ‘spying’ on residents and only undermining public trust in efforts to enforce restrictions. Madeleine Stone, Legal and Policy Officer, said: ‘Hiring undercover officers to enforce guidance that has no legal basis is heavy-handed. ‘Councils should focus their resources on supporting people affected by the crisis, not treating them like potential criminals.