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New coronavirus law makes it illegal to “mingle” with people outside your own group gathering
Human rights barrister says rule will be “nigh on impossible to enforce”
It’s part of new “rule of six” coronavirus legislation introduced in England on Monday
The government has banned “mingling” under its new “rule of six” coronavirus law.
The latest rules state people that cannot “mingle” with others outside their designated social gathering.
The law offers no definition of what “mingling” means in legal terms, prompting one leading human rights lawyer to claim it will be “nigh on impossible to enforce”.
The new coronavirus law was published late on Sunday night, half an hour before the “rule of six” – which bans most indoor and outdoor social gatherings of more than six people in England – came into force.
However, a list of exceptions were also published. It means more than six people are allowed to meet in indoor settings “operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body”, or at outdoor events organised by “a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body”.
But those attending such gatherings must be part of a “qualifying group” of up to six people, a single household or linked households.
Furthermore, no person is allowed to become a member of another group or “otherwise mingle” with anyone outside their own group, according to the legislation.
With no other reference to “mingle” or “mingling” in the legislation, it prompted human rights barrister Adam Wagner to ask: “What does mingle mean?
“Is saying hello to someone at a gathering ‘mingling’? What about holding the door open for them?”
He said the rules in these settings will be “nigh on impossible to enforce”.
Later, Downing Street said the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) will set out guidance for officers on how to respond to unlawful mingling.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The NPCC will set out guidance for police forces, but police are used to using their discretion in upholding the law and I’m sure that’s what they will do in this case.”
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Under the new law, people face fines of £100, doubling to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offences, for breaching the law which bans social gatherings of more than six people both indoors and outdoors.
It was introduced in response to the recent rise in coronavirus cases following the gradual lifting of lockdown over the summer.