At 11.30am on Monday, a change to the law was introduced that bans two people from different households in England gathering in an indoor, private place during the coronavirus lockdown.
The amendment to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Bill states: “No person may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place indoors, and consists of two or more persons.”
Previously, going to another person’s home to have sex would have been a breach of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, but now both parties could be prosecuted under the law. Having sex in public is already illegal.
Only those with a “reasonable excuse” are permitted to meet in a private place.
The amended bill reads: “No person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living.”
This differs from the previous legislation, which prohibited people from leaving their home at all without a reasonable excuse.
Anyone breaking the law can be fined £100, halved to £50 if paid within 14 days.
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner tweeted on Sunday: “I can’t believe I’m about to tweet this.
“From tomorrow sex between two (or more) people in a private place who do not live in the same household is a ‘gathering’ between 2 or more people and is therefore illegal.”
Afraid to say this is correct.
I can't believe I'm about to tweet this.
From tomorrow sex between two (or more) people in a private place who do not live in the same household is a "gathering" between 2 or more people and is therefore illegal. https://t.co/aEiGIoweee pic.twitter.com/b0KZBACSQ4
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) May 31, 2020
However, one lawyer pointed out a potential loophole with the legislation.
George Pertez QC tweeted that his reading of the law indicated that someone could potentially have sex with an escort in their home, as it might be deemed legal for work purposes.
He said it was “unacceptable” to publish the new legislation at just 14 hours’ notice and that having no vote in Parliament on the amendment was “very likely unlawful”.
As I read this, unless you live together, it’s now unlawful to have sex with your lover indoors, but fine outdoors (subject to public decency offences); but you can have sex with an escort indoors, as that is reasonably necessary for their work purposes (see 7(d)(i)). https://t.co/QXbT1EYikt
— George Peretz QC (@GeorgePeretzQC) May 31, 2020
The amendments detail how lockdown has been eased, with people in England now allowed to meet up outside in groups of up to six.
The regulations define a gathering as “when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”.
The government’s official guidelines for lockdown state: “Right now you are only allowed to gather outdoors with people you do not live with.