Birmingham lawyers are urging the Government and local authorities to provide clear guidance to residents and businesses, as the city is poised to move into Tier 3 lockdown.
The plea, from Birmingham Law Society which represents more than 5000 members of the legal community across the West Midlands, comes as research from Imperial College London suggests the R rate has reached 1.8 in the West Midlands.
As a result, Birmingham and the West Midlands are set to become the latest area moved into a Tier 3 lockdown and Birmingham Law Society is calling on the local authority to ensure all public communication is clear and transparent.
Caroline Coates, Director at Birmingham Law Society, comments: “In a crisis, communication is key and we must ensure that people understand the rules and the potential penalties if they do not to abide by them.
“Clarity is needed on whether gyms, casinos and other hospitality venues can remain open. Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty in this area which will only cause more confusion among business owners and residents. Similarly, the Rule of Six guidance for individuals and families need to be made clear.”
Caroline says the need for clear guidance is even more important due to the laws now in place, including fines for non-compliance. Fines of £200 could be handed out for a first offence, while hosting – or being involved – in a gathering of over 30 people could see a fine up to £10,000. Already, the West Midlands Police has handed out over 400 fines related to Covid-19.
“The legal framework now in place to deal with the COVID-19 situation amounts to much more than a ‘slap on the wrist’. The fines that can be levied are significant and are meant to act as a deterrent, but it is vital that this is communicated in advance to the public.”
“I am most concerned about ambiguity and that the innocent could inadvertently fall foul of the law because the rules and guidance on what they can, and cannot do, is unclear. For example, we have already seen confusion in other regions about what constitutes a ‘substantial meal’ which allows pubs to stay open. I am concerned other police forces may not have not been given ‘clear guidance’ on what it means and that will inevitably lead to differing interpretations. We cannot allow that situation to occur in Birmingham.”
Caroline says that there is also concern about access to legal services. “Businesses may be able to renegotiate on rent, leases and supplier contracts, but they will need sound legal advice..There is a wealth of local knowledge and experience within our members’ lawyers who can help you navigate how to keep your business afloat – whatever the size of business.”
Birmingham Law Society can provide access to a large pool of lawyers for anyone impacted by the new restrictions, including a list of free and trusted local advice agencies. People can also call Birmingham Law Society on 0121 227 8700 for support.
For more information please visit https://birminghamlawsociety.co.uk/