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New laws on face coverings

Police already have the power to ask for face coverings to be removed, but seldom use it.

Police are to be given extended powers to arrest protesters who wear face coverings to threaten others and avoid prosecution. The new rules will also ban flares and other pyrotechnics from public protests. 

Police already have powers to ask individuals to remove face coverings at designated protests where they believe criminality is likely to occur. But this new offence will empower officers to arrest individuals who disregard their orders. Lawbreakers face fines of up to £1,000 and a month in jail. 

In 2017, the Countryside Alliance successfully campaigned for amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, which allowed a senior police officer to give oral authorisation for an order to be issued by a constable on the ground to remove face coverings. The Alliance says the police remain reluctant to use this power in relation to animal rights extremists, political demonstrators or football hooligans. 

Anti-shooting and hunting demonstrators frequently hide their faces during protests and the Countryside Alliance argues the scope of the law is not the issue — but rather that the police fail to utilise their current powers.