Notwithstanding the importance of maintaining the public's trust during a public health emergency, confusion and uncertainty have been the order of the day this week as the Government struggled to send clear and consistent messages about exactly how the law has changed in the revisions to the emergency regulations meant to introduce the first easing of the Coronavirus lockdown.
As many people were left bewildered by whether they could or should now return to work, and businesses looked for clarity about the extent of their legal obligation to provide a safe place of work, and their potential legal liability if they fail to do so, the importance of legal certainty in our everyday lives suddenly became all too apparent.
Dr Ronan Cormacain, who leads our project monitoring legislation for compatibility with Rule of Law standards, subjected the new Coronavirus Regulations to rigorous Rule of Law scrutiny, and found there to be a serious lack of legal certainty. Taking the everyday question of 'can I go to the park?', the paper set out 3 areas of legal uncertainty arising. Firstly, the wording of the regulations is difficult to penetrate, particularly the new exemption around exercising outdoors with persons from another household. Secondly, there is a continuing blurring of the line between law and guidance. Thirdly, what Ministers pronounce as law doesn't always equate with what is actually law. The paper, entitled "Can I go to the park please Dad? Everyday lessons in legal certainty in the English Coronavirus Regulations" can be accessed here .
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