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Disabled people could ‘bear the brunt’ of confusing face covering laws

DISABLED people could bear the brunt of a police crackdown on wearing face masks under coronavirus laws, rights campaigners warned today.

Concerns have been raised with National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) chairman Martin Hewitt amid reports that officers have been wrongly claiming people with disabilities must carry paperwork to prove their exemption to the rule.

Big Brother Watch, Disability Rights UK, Mencap, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the Survivors Trust have urged police chiefs to clarify the legal exemptions on face-covering requirements.

In a letter to Mr Hewitt, the organisations called for assurances that restrictions are being enforced lawfully and fairly without discrimination.

The letter said: “We are concerned that those who are unable to wear face coverings will be disproportionately impacted by the increased emphasis on enforcement of the regulations.

“As long as this widespread confusion among police continues, we are concerned that people with disabilities will risk facing harassment, intimidation and unlawful fixed-penalty notices.”

According to government guidance, people who cannot “put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability” do not need to wear a face covering and “do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this.”

Madeleine Stone, legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, said: “There is a real risk that disabled people will bear the brunt of the government’s push for faster and harder enforcement of its complicated rules.

“Police requiring people to ‘show their papers’ to prove their disability is discriminatory, wrong and has no basis in law.”

An NPCC spokeswoman said that officers have clear guidance on the exemptions and clarified that there is no requirement to provide medical proof of an exemption.

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