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General News


17th April 2020

By Tom Parker


A previous blog post summarised the English regulations relating to when you can leave your home, and what penalties you may face for breaking those regulations. You can read it here.

Since then, further guidance – available via this link – has been provided to police in England that seeks to clarify what amounts to a ‘reasonable excuse’, perhaps in response to some worrying incidences of over-zealous policing and even a wrongful prosecution.

To obtain basic necessities

  • There is nothing wrong with buying ‘snacks and luxuries' alongside a basic shop;
  • ‘Obtain’ does not only mean ‘purchase’ – ‘collecting surplus basic food items from a friend’ is likely reasonable, provided it’s not a cover to socialise with friends;
  • Buying paint and brushes, simply to redecorate a kitchen’ is an example of an unreasonable reason to go shopping.


Who knew exercise would be so controversial in a pandemic?

The guidance does some useful myth-busting:

  • Exercise comes in many forms, from walking, to yoga in the park, to attending your allotment – there just needs to be ‘some movement’ involved;
  • You can drive somewhere to take exercise;
  • You can exercise more than once a day;
  • You can stop for a short break during a long walk or run.

What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances. The guidance suggests, for example, that a long drive for a 5-minute walk is not reasonable; a short drive for a long walk probably is.

Similarly, stopping for a short break on a long walk is clearly reasonable. Joggers should not be berated by police for having a short lie-down to recover from their run. But having a picnic in the park after a 10-minute walk is a no-no.

The frequency and duration of exercise, again, depends on your circumstances. Eliud Kipchoge may need to leave the house for a few more runs than I do.


The key point about work is that ‘there is no requirement to be a key worker or essential worker in order to travel to work. Anyone can travel to work if it is not reasonably possible to work from home.’

No one on their way to work should be asked to ‘prove’ to the police that they are an essential worker. And volunteering is permitted, even if it’s not for a registered charity or related to Covid-19.

Other reasons

The list of ‘reasonable excuses’ in the regulations is non-exhaustive. Just because the government did not think of your excuse, does not mean it is unreasonable.

The guidance gives some examples of ‘other’ reasonable excuses that might arise:

  • Taking an animal for treatment at the vet (that cannot be done over the phone);
  • Moving to a friend’s address for several days to allow a ‘cooling-off’ following arguments at home (and a reminder that it is reasonable to leave your home ‘to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm’);
  • Providing support to vulnerable people (that is not socialising).


Tom Parker is the current 36 Crime pupil. Tom’s pupil supervisor during his “first six” was Nadia Silver, with whom he gained experience in serious and complex crime and regulatory law. Before joining Chambers, Tom worked as a consultant on a criminal justice reform project in Somaliland. He has also interned at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and worked with human rights NGOs in Kenya.

For further information about the 36 Emergency Powers Group, please click here.

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