Civil Liberties and Lawyers groups are requesting a review of more than 14,000 fines by the police for alleged violations of the Covid-19 locking rules over concerns that some have been “wrongfully” issued.
Police chiefs and prosecutors apologized last week for admitting that dozens of people had been wrongly charged under new coronavirus laws.
It followed a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) assessment of all 231 legal and legal prosecutions in England and Wales up to the end of April, which were either terminated or were sentenced.
All 44 charges brought under the Coronavirus Act – allowing agents to remove or detain an “suspected infectious individual” for screening and assessment – were false, including 13 wrongful convictions.
And 12 charges under the 2020 Health Protection Regulations, which empower the police to break meetings and fines for people who violate restrictions on movement rules, were also wrong.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), is now urged to review all firm sanction notifications (FPNs) issued in England and Wales using the regulations.
A letter to Mr. Hewitt has been signed by civil liberties groups, including Big Brother Watch and Liberty, and by lawyers, including Kirsty Brimelow, QC, attorney at Doughty Street Chambers.
It says, “We believe that a significant number of FPNs have been wrongfully issued and that, particularly in light of the changed regulations that bring new enforcement challenges, there is an ongoing risk of FPNs being wrongfully issued – and a significantly larger number.
“This is why an urgent national review of all FPNs issued under emergency laws is required.”
The letter argues that the fines are imposed with less control than the fees charged to magistrates’ court, and highlights a “zip code lottery” of police across the country.
In one case, the fine of two sisters was reportedly withdrawn by Lancashire police after legal advice.
The Lancashire Evening Post said Shazia Zahieer and Tayyba Arif, who are members of the same household, received £ 60 FPN each on March 30 after driving to Preston Docks to practice.
Preliminary data released last week shows that 13,445 FPNs were registered by armed forces in England between March 27 and May 11, while 799 were issued in Wales during the same period – a total of 14,244.
The fines were all handed out before the lockdown rules in England were relaxed since last Wednesday, with fines of £ 60 reduced to £ 30 if paid within two weeks, doubling the fine for each recurrence to a maximum of £ 960.
In England, higher fines can now be imposed – £ 100, reduced to £ 50 if paid within 14 days, and up to a maximum of £ 3,200 for subsequent offenses.
Of the 43 regional police forces in England and Wales, the Metropolitan Police has imposed the highest number of fines with 906, followed by the Thames Valley Police with 866 and North Yorkshire with 843.
Warwickshire spent the least, with only 31.
Bigie Watch director Silkie Carlo said, “ We understand the challenges facing the police, but if the public has to rely on lawful, proportionate and fair police in this pandemic, they must at least admit and correct the serious mistakes that they have made.
“There may be hundreds or even thousands of people in this country, many of whom are already in financial difficulties, who have paid fines for not doing anything wrong.
“The CPS review uncovered an outbreak of injustice and we fear it could only be the tip of the iceberg.”
The NPCC said the letter has been received and is under consideration.
Mr. Hewitt said, “The vast majority of people continue to do the right thing, which protects the NHS and helps save lives.
“The figures show that our approach is proportional: only 0.02 percent of the population in England and Wales are fined.”