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Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into coronavirus

MA contributes evidence

12 May 2020
Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into coronavirus

Concerns have been raised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other organisations that there may be a particular impact on some people who have protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 in relation to the current coronavirus pandemic and government measures introduced in response to the crisis. In response, the Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry to collect evidence about such impacts. The MA drafted a response for the committee, highlighting two possible areas of concern in relation to the justice system.

The first issue is one the MA has raised repeatedly in response to the move to increase the use of technology, up to and including holding hearings with parties attending remotely. We are concerned that certain groups of people may find it more challenging to fairly and effectively participate in hearings via audio or video-link. Specifically, if an individual has communication difficulties, these may be exacerbated if they are not physically present. There may also be issues in relation to people who do not have access to safe and secure technology needed to participate remotely – including safe and secure wifi.

The second issue relates to the need to retain public confidence in respect of police enforcement powers, especially as they relate to new legislation introduced to restrict individual movement to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Public confidence is not only necessary to ensure compliance with the new laws, but is linked to the legitimacy of the police actions. We noted that there is already a significant gap in confidence levels in the police among different ethnic groups – with a number of reviews and reports highlighting young black man having especially low trust and confidence in the police. We therefore suggest scrutiny panels should be used to provide oversight of any penalty notices given by the police under the new legislation, to ensure lessons are learnt about good practice and to improve public confidence.

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