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Covid 19 and Business Closure – Legal Obligations

At 2 pm on Saturday 21 March 2020, a law came into force which forced the closure of some businesses.

This law was enacted by virtue of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 (and mirror regulations that apply in Wales). The statutory instrument was made in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 45C(1), (3)(c), (4)(d), 45F(2) and 45P of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

Which businesses must close?

Schedule 1 of the regulations state that the following businesses must close:

Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs.

Cafes, including workplace canteens, but not including

cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school;

canteens at a prison or an establishment intended for use for naval, military or air force purposes or for the purposes of the Department of the Secretary of State responsible for defence;

services providing food or drink to the homeless.

Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.

Public houses.

Cinemas.

Theatres.

Nightclubs.

Bingo halls.

Concert halls.

Museums and galleries.

Casinos.

Betting shops.

Spas.

Massage parlours.

Indoor skating rinks.

Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres.

Other business types will likely be added to this list if the government adopts more stringent lock-down measures.

What is the penalty if businesses defy the law?

An unlimited fine can be imposed on the business and any officer of the company who has consented or connived etc. so keeping the business open (regulation 3).

There are, however, other powers available to local authorities who are in charge of policing compliance with these regulations.

Businesses that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines. As a further measure, and if needed, businesses that fail to comply could also face the loss of their alcohol license. More draconian powers are also available under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, and further powers will soon be law when the Coronavirus Bill becomes law.

In some cases, injunctive relief may be granted, the breach of which could be punished by up to 2 years imprisonment.

There are also reputational issues that need to be considered.

We can advise on all aspects of criminal and regulatory law, if any business is uncertain as to its legal obligations during this worrying time, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

How can we help?

Breach of this legislation is likely to be treated seriously as it is designed to avert a national crisis.

If you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an allegation, make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early advice legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.

Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

We have offices across the East Midlands and will happily travel across the country to provide representation for all football related offences.

VHS Fletchers solicitors offices
VHS Fletchers offices across the East Midlands

Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.

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