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DUP East Belfast MLA and Policing Board representative Joanne Bunting has called on the Justice Minister Naomi Long and the Chief Constable to provide absolute clarity on whether the PSNI have powers to enter homes under the Covid regulations.

Commenting after it emerged the power is expected to face legal challenge, Ms Bunting said:

‘‘Throughout this crisis there have been massive restrictions on fundamental freedoms and civil liberties in the interests of public safety. With regard to restrictions and regulations, it is vital that each of these decisions is communicated clearly and without ambiguity.

There is a duty on the PSNI and the Department of Justice to give frontline Officers an absolute assurance that if and when they take certain actions, they are acting in compliance with human rights.

In the past few days, contradictory evidence has been presented on whether police officers have the legal power to enter people’s homes. This confusion must be addressed urgently, not least because the matter is now subject to legal proceedings and public concern is rising.

As the virus continues to spread at pace across Northern Ireland, enforcement of the regulations has an important role to play in tackling the threat of Covid-19. However, to achieve this, police officers and members of the public must fully understand their rights and responsibilities.

I would urge the Justice Minister to move quickly to remove this grey area for officers and households, including by publishing relevant legal advice on the extension of these powers.’’