Thematic Review of the Policing Response to COVID-19 published


The Northern Ireland Policing Board has published its Review of the Policing Response to COVID-19 which was conducted by its Human Rights Advisor, John Wadham. Designed to examine how the policing service responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Report focuses on the period 23 March – 30 June 2020 and makes 18 recommendations.

Speaking about the review and Report published, Policing Board Chair Doug Garrett said:

“In commissioning this review, the Board wanted to be assured that the operational plans put in place by the police to respond to the pandemic and the enforcement of powers conferred have been in accordance with the law and compliant with human rights. This included the temporary introduction of spit and bite guards, the suspension of the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme and health and safety issues for both the PSNI and the public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for every single one of us and it has brought changes and restrictions to our daily lives that no one could have predicted or foreseen. Decisions and directions have had to be made by the Executive to save lives, to protect our health service and to allow key workers to maintain essential services.

The pandemic necessitated the introduction of new legislation, new powers for policing and the requirement for policing to interpret and deliver policing services to ensure public compliance with directions from the NI Executive.

The Board recognises the enormous challenge faced by the PSNI in policing the pandemic in a way which did not damage public confidence in the service. Overall the police are to be commended for their ‘4 E’s’ approach and application, but there have been instances where police decisions, actions, interactions and enforcement activity have been publicly questioned.  

It is therefore important that these matters are reviewed and scrutinised to inject openness and transparency, identify lessons learnt and to provide public assurance and explanation on issues where concerns have been raised.

In addition to the findings of this review, the Board has liaised with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on the investigation commissioned into the policing of large gatherings and we will consider that report and any associated recommendations when published.”


Notes for editors

  1. For further information please contact the Board’s Communications Office on 02890 408 541 or
  2. A copy of the Report can be found on the Board’s website at
  3. Background: In May 2020 the Board requested the Human Rights Advisor conduct a thematic review of PSNI’s response to COVID-19.  Terms of Reference: The overarching aim is to assess the impact of the policing response on public confidence.  The review will consider the extent of the application the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 along with the temporary introduction of spit and bite guards, the suspension of the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme and the health and safety issues for both PSNI and the public. 

The review considered:

  • Whether the operational use of the powers and new equipment is:
    • in accordance with the law and compliant with human rights;
    • being used proportionately and whether officers can be protected in any other ways;
  • Whether PSNI training and guidance for officers is adequate and has sufficient detailed consideration of the human rights issues;
  • The protection of those required to remain at home;
  • The impact on community confidence; and
  • Whether there are any recommendations that should be made or lessons that could be learned (including whether the use of spit and bite guards by the PSNI should be restricted or should cease completely).

Notes end.