Dozens of people have been wrongly charged by police under new coronavirus laws, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has admitted.
All 44 charges brought under the Coronavirus Act, which allows officers to remove or detain a “suspected infectious person” for screening and assessment, since it was brought in on 27 March were incorrect.
As civil liberties group Liberty pointed out:
100% of prosecutions brought under the Coronavirus Act have been INCORRECT.
EVERY SINGLE ONE.
There's no case to be made in favour of the extraordinary police power to detain potentially infectious people. https://t.co/OSel63h9l6
— Liberty (@libertyhq) May 15, 2020
And 12 charges under the Health Protection Regulations 2020, which give powers to break up gatherings and fine people breaching restriction of movement rules, were also wrong.
The figures come following a CPS review of all 231 police charges under coronavirus legislation in England and Wales up to the end of April, where the prosecution has either been stopped or ended in a conviction.
Service director of legal services, Gregor McGill, said: “Under the regulations, the vast majority, that’s 175 out of 187, have been charged correctly.
“Under the Act, all 44 charges were incorrect because they did not cover potentially infectious people, which is what the legislation is intended for.”
It comes as the National Police Chiefs’ Council said more than 14,000 fines have been issued for flouting Covid-19 lockdown rules. But as solicitor Jules Carey highlighted:
Interesting stats: CPS admits all 44 prosecutions under Coronavirus Act were wrong – but says most prosecutions for Regs breaches were correct. Police chief says it's all been a bit of a rush & they'll do better but that won't be a comfort to 14000 people who have be fined. https://t.co/nRtl2eXFxA
— Jules Carey (@Jules_Carey) May 15, 2020
Provisional data released on Friday shows 13,445 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) have been recorded by forces in England between March 27 and May 11, while 799 were issued in Wales in the same period – a total of 14,244. But these fines were not included in the review carried out by the CPS.
The fines were all handed out before lockdown regulations were relaxed in England from Wednesday, with penalties set at £60, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks – with the fine doubled for each repeat offence up to a £960 maximum.
Higher fines can now be imposed in England – £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days and rising to a maximum of £3,200 for subsequent offences.
Of the 43 regional police forces in England and Wales, the Metropolitan Police has recorded the highest number of fines, with 906, followed by Thames Valley Police, with 866, and North Yorkshire, with 843.
Meanwhile, the Met has also increased its use of stop and search during lockdown by 22%:
The latest stop and search figures from the Metropolitan Police show a surge in the use of these police powers during the lockdown. Across London, there were 30,608 uses of stop and search in April, compared to 23,787 in March – a rise of 22%.
— Netpol (@netpol) May 14, 2020
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