Following his interview on the BBC Talkback programme, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin has issued a statement to clarify the legal position on the wearing masks in public.
On Friday, ACC Martin said: “This afternoon, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster Talkback by William Crawley in relation to parading issues over the Easter period. I was asked if it was an offence to wear a mask in a public place and I responded that it was not.
“This has since been the cause of some debate on social media. I hope that the following information provides some clarity:
“The wearing of face masks is not, of itself, an offence.
“Senior police can issue an authorisation requiring people to comply with a police officer’s direction to remove face coverings. If they do not comply, they commit an offence.
“Authorisations can only be issued in limited, specified circumstances and, as with the exercise of all police powers, must be proportionate in the circumstances.”
ACC Martin’s statement on the PSNI website includes a link to the legislation on the issue.
• Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 (Sect 23A).
‘Powers to require removal of disguises’
“A person who fails to remove an item worn by him when required to do so by a constable in the exercise of his power under this Article shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale or both.”