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25 March 2020

Coronavirus Act 2020 introduces criminal justice system flexibilities

Sub-theme: Criminal justice

Introduced by

Department of Health and Social Care

Targeted at

General public, courts and tribunals, police, coroners, Home Secretary, and Investigatory Powers Commissioners


Introduced to House of Commons on 19 March 2020, given Royal Assent on 25 March. Contains 'sunset' clauses – time limited (2 years), reviewed every 6 months, and can be terminated before then

Stated aims

To ease the burden on staff and to reduce the spread of COVID-19


The Coronavirus Act 2020 legislates for a number of criminal justice system flexibilities. To ease the burden on staff, the Act allows temporary judicial commissioners (JCs) to be appointed at the request of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, in the event that there are insufficient JCs available to operate the system under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The Home Secretary, again at the request of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, will also be allowed to vary the time allowed for urgent warrants to be reviewed by a JC and how long they can last before they need to be reviewed. The maximum time allowed for a review will be increased to a maximum of 12 days (up from the current 3 days). The Act introduces new powers to detain and isolate individuals with COVID-19, close premises, and prohibit events. This includes powers over events and gatherings, and strengthens the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers. Further measures introduced include enabling the use of video links in courts and changes to inquests for COVID-19 deaths (no inquests with juries needed for COVID-19 deaths).


Coronavirus Bill – progress through parliament

Coronavirus Bill – explanatory notes

Coronavirus Act 2020 – full act