Police in the UK have the power to stop and question a UK citizen or visitor at any time. According to the information here, they can:

Stop and Question - Police Powers

These powers are limited in that a member of the public is not required to stop, nor answer any questions, and such a refusal cannot be used against the individual concerned.

My question is: does this conflict with the new Health Protection legislation that has recently been introduced? I link to the version for Wales, here.

This new legislation makes it illegal for a UK citizen residing in Wales to leave their home, except with reasonable excuse. A small list of reasonable excuses is provided with the legislation.

Now, consider a scenario where a Police officer exercises a stop and account for the purposes of determining whether there has been a breach of this new legislation.

A member of the public could, according to the law on stop and account, continue on his or her journey and choose not to engage with the Police officer*. Since this cannot be used as evidence or suspicion of a crime, then the officer theoretically has no power to go any further.

However, I wonder if the officer could reasonably argue that given the new legislation which makes it illegal for one to leave their home except by reasonable excuse, this forms the basis of reasonable suspicion that a person who is seen on the street has breached the Health Protection legislation.

*. an exception to this is if the member of public was driving, in which case the Police have powers under the Road Traffic act to stop them and obtain identification for the purposes of ascertaining whether they are fit to be driving a motor vehicle on the road. But still the right to not answer further questions would apply.

Is there a conflict here?

2 Answers 2


There's no conflict.

There's no statutory power or requirement for a police officer to request someone stop and explain what they're up to. You, I and police officers have the freedom to do that, and the person we're asking has the freedom to answer or walk away. The phrase "stop and account" is jargon for that kind of circumstance - it falls under the umbrella of "conversational encounter".

The Regulations to which you linked create new powers and offences during the period the Regulations are 'live' (they will automatically expire six months from 26 March 2020).


s10 Enforcement ...

(2) Where a relevant person considers that a person (“P”) is contravening the requirement in regulation 8(1), the relevant person may—

(a)direct P to return to the place where P is living; (b)remove P to that place.

(3) A relevant person exercising the power in paragraph (2) may—

(a) direct P to follow such instructions as the relevant person considers necessary; (b) use reasonable force in the exercise of the power [which must be "necessary and proportionate"]


(9) A relevant person may remove an individual from a public path or access land (within the meaning given by regulation 9(7)) which is closed (or is being closed) by virtue of regulation 9(1), and may use reasonable force to do so. ...

(10) A relevant person may take such other action as the relevant person considers necessary and proportionate to facilitate the exercise of a power conferred on the person by this regulation or regulation 11.

In the context a "relevant person" is a police officer (in other contexts it may be a police community support officer, or a person a person designated by the Welsh Ministers,a local authority, a National Park authority in Wales, or Natural Resources Wales).

In s12 Offences and Penalties, the Regulations create new offences that include failure to provide a reasonable excuse, contravening a direction, and failure to comply with an instruction or a prohibition notice. These are punishable on summary conviction by a fine. Or the police officer may issue (to over 18 year olds) a Fixed Penalty Notice of £60 (£30 if paid within 14 days, £120 if it's a second FPN issued to that person under the regs).

  • Thank you for your answer. Unfortunately I still don't understand. We have legislation under stop and account which states that a member of the public does not have to stop, nor do they have to give an account. On the other hand we have new legislation requiring that reasonable excuse is given (which basically forces an account). How does a reader of this legislation know which trumps which? Is there something about most recent legislation trumps old?
    – Q''
    Apr 1, 2020 at 17:25
  • @Q'' I wasn't clear, please see my edit.
    – Lag
    Apr 1, 2020 at 19:36
  • OK, I think I get it. You're saying that an officer who asks a member of the public to provide an explanation for them having left the house falls outside of stop and account, because stop and account is just a "hello what are you up to" where as "why have you left the house" is a question directed at specific legislation that forbids the activity.
    – Q''
    Apr 1, 2020 at 19:43
  • "We have legislation under stop and account which states that a member of the public does not have to stop, nor do they have to give an account." - this appears to be strictly incorrect, there is no legislation defining or describing S&A. Police cannot ordinarily stop a person and require them to explain who, why, and what they are doing there without other reasons for suspicion. The new legislation gives them this power when no reasonable excuse is obvious.
    – user4657
    Apr 1, 2020 at 21:07

... and there’s no other reason to suspect you ...

8.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

You are outside the place where you are living and if there is no readily apparent “reasonable excuse” then the officer has “reason to suspect you” and can use the enforcement powers in s10.

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