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Civil-liberties groups call for review of police fines under coronavirus rules

CIVIL-liberties groups and lawyers are calling for a review of at least 14,000 police fines imposed for alleged breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules over fears that some have been “wrongly issued.”

Police chiefs and prosecutors apologised last week after admitting that dozens of people had been wrongly penalised under new coronavirus laws.

The apology followed a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) review of all 231 prosecutions to the end of April under the legislation in England and Wales that have either been stopped or ended in a conviction.

All 44 charges brought under the Coronavirus Act, which allows officers to remove or detain a “suspected infectious person” for screening and assessment, were incorrect and there were 13 wrongful convictions.

And 12 charges under the Health Protection Regulations 2020, which give police powers to break up gatherings and fine people breaching restriction of movement rules, were also wrong.

A letter to National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) chairman Martin Hewitt, signed by civil-liberties groups including Big Brother Watch and Liberty, as well as a number of lawyers, calls for an “urgent national review of all FPNs (fixed-penalty notices) issued under emergency laws.”

The letter argues that the fines were issued with less scrutiny than charges, which go before a magistrates’ court.

The fines, handed out before last Wednesday, when lockdown regulations were relaxed in England,  were set at £60, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks, and the penalty doubled for each repeat offence up to a £960 maximum.

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: “The CPS review revealed an outbreak of injustice and we fear it could be just the tip of the iceberg.”

The NPCC said the letter had been received and was being considered.

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