Matthew Graham on BBC Points West

The wearing of face coverings in shops became law on 24 July 2020, with the Government announcing on 31 July that the legislation will now be extended to also apply to indoor venues including places of worship, galleries, cinemas and museums.

This new legislation comes into force on 8 August 2020 and aims to curb rising rates of Covid-19.

Matthew Graham, Head of Stone King’s Criminal Law Team, recently answered viewers’ questions on where face coverings needed to be worn for BBC Points West and also spoke to the Bath Echo.

Matthew explained that said shops and indoor settings will be encouraged to enforce the new legislation and may even face sanctions if they fail to do so.

He said:

A face covering is anything that covers the nose and face, and need not be a ‘mask’ or comply with particular standards, though at least dual layered coverings will be encouraged.

Fines will be £100, reduced to £50 if paid promptly, and may result in a criminal record. Cafés, restaurants and bars will likely be exempted, along with open air premises. There are sure to be lots of grey areas, especially for multi-use premises and spaces where retail and café space are shared, or for premises that are covered but not necessarily indoors.

Imposing fines will be a job for the police, although shops will no doubt be expected to play their part in encouraging compliance.

There will be many with a reasonable or legitimate excuse for not wearing a covering, especially relating to health needs, so enforcement is likely to be very difficult and those unable to wear a covering might feel stigmatised.

The Government is hoping for widespread compliance by consent and consensus, and the common sense of the population may be nudged by the prospect of a fine and a criminal record.

However, shops will be encouraged to make compliance a condition of entry and to refuse entry to those not complying. If shops and settings fail to consistently play their part they may face regulatory sanction, in the same way as they would if they permit or condone any criminality.

But Mr Graham explained that there will still be a number of exemptions, excusing people from wearing face coverings and are expected to relate to health, disability emergencies and the police.

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