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Justice Minister says that deploying drones to catch those flouting corona rules is “a bridge too far”

The Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Flemish liberal) has told VRT News that he has issues with the deployment of drones to check whether people are uphold the rules designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Speaking on the Sunday topical discussion programme ‘De zevende dag’, Mr Van Quickenborne said "Everyone knows that I am in favour of new technology and I believe that the police and the judicial authorities should be able to use it. However, this should be done within the constitutional principles of the rule of law. A drone doesn’t differentiate between public and private property. Our constitution says that the home is inviolable, and this includes the garden. No one has any business with what goes on in your home or your garden. So, you either give someone permission to enter or they have to go and obtain it from a magistrate".

"If a drone is used as part of a criminal investigation, for example to locate a drugs lab by using heat sensors, then that’s ok. Personally I believe that it would a step too far if the police were to start the generalised use of drones simply to find violations of the coronavirus measures”, the Justice Minister said.

Mr Van Quickenborne added that a meeting of the Chief Prosecutors will be held on Monday during which a number of principals on the use of drones will be agreed. These will be sent out to the relevant bodies in a circular letter.

But what about lockdown parties? "The police can ring the doorbell if for example there is noise or there are too many cars on the drive. If the police aren’t allowed in, they can call the State Prosecutor. They will take all elements of the situation into consideration and can then grant permission for the police to enter. What is not permitted is that the police take a grinding wheel or saw and force entry off their own bat. That is unacceptable”.

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