Policing and consent: how can the police enforce social distancing and maintain public trust?

As the United Kingdom faces up to an enforced lockdown to contain Covid-19 the police will come under the spotlight like never before. The unprecedented emergency powers taken by the government will criminalise routine and mundane everyday activities.  Whilst these severe measures have been couched in a persuasive argument – ‘saving lives’ ‘protecting the NHS’ – they have been codified within criminal law. Police officers are empowered to ‘disperse gatherings’ and issue on the spot fines for anyone contravening ‘social distancing’ rules and other lockdown breaches.  Enforcing these unprecedented restrictions on hitherto basic freedoms sets up a fascinating mass social experiment – will the police be able to maintain their claim to public legitimacy and public trust?

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