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States approve social-distancing fines up to £1,000

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ISLANDERS will now face fines of up to £1,000 if they ‘wilfully’ ignore police instructions to observe two-metre social distancing in public, following a vote by States Members.

People walking on the beach and footpaths near First Tower Picture: ROB CURRIE. (28478619)

Newly approved rules, which are due to expire on 30 September, have been introduced to help the Island ease its lockdown measures by allowing stricter enforcement of the social-distancing policy.

The new powers came into effect after a proposition lodged by Health Minister Richard Renouf was passed by 33 votes to 11 by States Members.

Outlining his proposition, Deputy Renouf said that it was essential for it to be passed to allow lockdown restrictions to be relaxed.

‘The advice that we have received is that the risk of transmission is highest when people spend time within two metres of other people outside of their own household,’ he said.

‘So retaining that two-metre rule to limit the spread of infection will allow other restrictions to be loosened or removed more quickly and for the Island to move through the phases set out in the Safe Exit Framework towards normality in an orderly manner. The two-metre rule is the main focus of these regulations for that reason.’

He added that Islanders would only face fines of up to £1,000 if they deliberately disregarded police instructions to observe social distancing of two metres from other people.

‘The mere fact of gathering is not an offence. The only offence that a person can commit is to wilfully fail to follow a direction from a police officer to stop breaching safe distancing or to fail to stop a child from doing so within a reasonable time,’ he said.

‘The term “wilfully” is a carefully chosen term. It requires that a person has the capability to act and that it is reasonable and safe for them to do so, but that they do not comply through some decision of their own.’

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Before the debate, a number of Members called for the discussion to be postponed until next week’s States sitting rather than being held at short notice.

Deputy Montfort Tadier said that ministers already seemed to lack clarity on how existing social-distancing rules should be enforced and pointed out that the minister had not given a clear answer on what two-metre distancing meant exactly.

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft said he that felt the legislation had been rushed and that Members needed to be properly briefed on the proposals.

But in support of the Health Minister, Senator Ian Gorst yesterday said that not debating the proposition would put Deputy Renouf in a ‘very difficult position’ and he might have had to extend stay-at-home orders if the legislation was not passed.

During the debate Environment Minister John Young, who supported the proposition, asked the Health Minister to give ‘greater consideration’ to the risk of infection spreading through people gathering within households.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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