Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Powers

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 were introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive on 28th March, 2020.

Each and every one of us has a personal responsibility to follow the NI Executive regulations and do everything we can to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

You can find details of the Regulations at: www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-northern-ireland-regulations-2020

From 2nd June enforcement of Regulations 3 and 4 will be shared between the District Councils and PSNI.

These 2 regulations relate to specified businesses and venues which must close while these restrictions are in place. Some specified businesses may remain open and others can continue to trade but only online, by telephone or by post. The businesses covered by the Regulations fall primarily into the retail and service sectors. Sectors such as manufacturing and construction are not covered by the Regulations.

Role of PSNI

Councils will deal with enforcement in relation to the requirements only of Regulations 3 and 4, and at non licensed businesses. The PSNI will continue to deal with enforcement in relation to licensed premises, individuals, gatherings and non-business premises and venues. The PSNI and Councils have developed a Memorandum of Understanding to clarify enforcement roles, so as to ensure the effective enforcement of these Regulations.

Restricted Businesses

A list of the businesses and venues that are required to close, and the exceptions to these requirements, can be found using the links below:

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-businesses-andservices

https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-business-closures-andrestrictions

What will the Council be doing in relation to these emergency powers?

1. Supporting local businesses to comply

Councils will be providing advice to businesses on the requirements of the Regulations both through normal communication channels and upon request.

Guidance for businesses can be found on the Council’s website at www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/business/environmental-health/health-and-safety-for-businesses-during-the-coronavirus-covid19-outbreak

Additional guidance for businesses from HM Gov including advice on:

This government guidance is being kept updated however, some of the advice relates to England only and you should ensure that any guidance used is relevant to the current Regulations in Northern Ireland.

Local information on business restrictions including advice, and examples of businesses that can and cannot operate can be found here: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business

2. Tackling failures to comply

The Northern Ireland Executive anticipates that the vast majority of businesses will understand why the restrictions have been brought into place and will follow the requirements.

The Regulations set out a number of offences: 

  • Contravening, without reasonable excuse, a requirement or restriction of Regulation 3 or Regulation 4 (see Regulation 8(1)); 
  • Failure to comply, without reasonable excuse, with a prohibition notice (see Regulation 8(3)); 
  • Obstructing, without reasonable excuse, any persons carrying out a function under the Regulations (see Regulation 8(2)).

The Council is expected to take a reasonable and proportionate approach, consistent with their existing enforcement policy, encouraging and persuading businesses to comply with the requirements. 

 This means that if a person commits an offence of failing to comply with any such direction or restriction imposed on them without reasonable excuse, officers will consider what action is appropriate. That may initially be advice and guidance however, where businesses do not act responsibly and fail to comply, the Council will be able to use the following enforcement powers: 
 

Prohibition notices (Regulation 7(2)) 

 An officer authorised by the Council may issue a prohibition notice, where this is necessary and proportionate, to prevent a person responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service from continuing to contravene Regulation 3 or Regulation 4. 

Fixed penalty notices (Regulation 9(1)) 

 An officer authorised by the Council may issue a fixed penalty notice in relation to an offence of contravening, without reasonable excuse, a requirement of Regulation 3 or Regulation 4 of The Regulations. 

 A fixed penalty notice is intended for use in relation to an individual and the individual must be aged 18 or over. 

 A fixed penalty notice may only be issued to a person responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service as defined in The Regulations. This includes the owner, proprietor or manager of the business. 

The amount of the fixed penalty is £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If a person has already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount of the fixed penalty is £120 doubling on each further repeat offence up to a maximum of £960, and there will be no discount for repeat offenders paying within 14 days.

Criminal proceedings 

Prosecution should usually only be taken where a business operator has failed to comply with advice and warnings provided by officers.