Protest under COVID-19 Phase 2: Key Info

Know your rights when out and about, and attending protests, under Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 regulations.

1. Participating in a protest

Under Scottish Phase 2 regulations meeting outside in a group of more than 3 households, or in a group of more than 8 people, would be an offence.

Police have various and very broad enforcement powers, and anyone taking part risks either receiving an FPN (small fine) or criminal charge/fine up to £10,000.

2. Police powers

Not following a direction given by police under regulation 7 or obstructing the police in carrying out these functions is an offence.

If you are caught outside your home without ‘reasonable excuse’ (such as grocery shopping or exercising alone or with members of your household or one other household) police can:

Take action such as giving you directions (which you must follow), sending you home or bringing you home. They can use ‘reasonable force’ to do this. You can be handed a prohibition notice or a Fixed Penalty Notice.

3. Legal Observers

Legal observers are trained volunteers who support the legal rights of activists.They provide basic legal guidance and are independent witnesses of police behaviour at protests. They are independent, but not impartial.

They do not pass information between protestors and police, or provide general information about the event.

Legal observers are different from stewards.

4. Stop and search

The police have no right to stop and search you, except if you are suspected of committing certain crimes, (e.g. drug possession/theft). They must have good reason to suspect you and must state the specific crime they suspect you of.

Whenever the police ask to search you: ask whether they are asking you to agree voluntarily or they have legal authority to search you.

Ask under what power and remember / write down what is said. It is often advisable not to voluntarily agree to a search. Unless you have been arrested, police are only allowed to search your possessions and conduct a “pat down” search of your body, during which you may be required to remove outer clothing. You are not required to give a name or address. You do not have to unlock your phone.

5. Interacting with police

Ask what legislation they are using when they ask you to do something and if it is a request or something you legally have to do.

If you feel like a police officer is acting unreasonably you can ask for their identification number, or make a note of it as they are supposed to have it written on their shoulder pads.

Make a note of what happened with as much detail as possible, as soon as you can. This will help you if you or the police take matters further.

You are not required to give your name, address or other personal detail to the police unless you are being arrested. You do not have to answer their questions and we advice you don’t. Be especially wary of police liaison officers (wearing blue) who might try to get information from you with a ‘friendly chat’.

6. Arrest

You must give your name, address, date & place of birth and nationality if you are arrested. You DON’T have to say anything else. (We recommend that you say ‘no comment’ in response to any other questions asked.)

You will be searched, and your possessions taken away.

If you are under 16 the police will contact your parent(s) or guardian(s).

The police can photograph and fingerprint you and take a DNA sample without your consent.

If you are arrested, you have the following rights:

  • To be told you are under arrest and what offence you are being suspected of.
  • To be told that you have the right to remain silent.
  • To contact a solicitor (including to have a private consultation with a solicitor before any questioning by the police begins and to have a solicitor attend any questioning with you). DO NOT use the duty solicitor.
  • Have a friend or relative contacted. (In a protest, contact the back office, if there is one in place)
  • To see a doctor if you are sick or hurt.
  • To receive vegan, halal or kosher food.
  • Access to a translator if English is not your first language.

7. What is an Fixed Penalty Notice?

An FPN (Fixed Penalty Notice) gives you 2 choices: either pay a fine and avoid any further liability or face a potential criminal charge and conviction. If you receive an FPN, you have 28 days to decide whether you want to contest it. If you want to challenge an FPN, you should seek legal advice immediately. If it is your first FPN it is £30 to pay within 28 days or £60 after that. The penalties rise rapidly with each subsequent FPN (up to max. £960).

This guidance is also available as a series of flash cards below. You can also find these on our social media.