Lockdown fines: Fixed penalty notices should all be reviewed – MPson April 27, 2021 at 4:11 am

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Many of the 93,000 fixed penalties issued in England and Wales were discriminatory or unfair, MPs argue.

A police officer in a park with a group of unidentifiable men in the foreground

image copyrightPA Media

All fixed penalty notices for Covid lockdown breaches, which can be as high as £10,000, should be reviewed – according to a parliamentary committee.

The system is “muddled, discriminatory and unfair”, MPs on the Joint Committee on Human Rights argued.

More than 85,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued in England since the pandemic began, and 8,000 in Wales.

A government spokesperson said it was right there were consequences for those who most flagrantly breached the rules.

The JCHR, which is made up of MPs and peers, said it had “significant concerns” about the validity of fines, the inadequacy of the review and appeal process, the size of the penalties and the criminalisation of those who could not afford to pay.

“The whole process disproportionately hits the less well-off and criminalises the poor over the better off,” said committee chairwoman Harriet Harman.

While the committee recognised swift action had been needed in the face of the pandemic, the government needed to ensure rules were clear, enforcement was fair and that mistakes could be rectified, she said, adding: “None of that is the case in respect of Covid-19 fixed penalty notices.”

Ms Harman said police had a difficult job enforcing the rules during the pandemic, but warned a “lack of legal clarity” meant there could be a large number of wrongly issued fines.

The Labour MP added: “This means we’ve got an unfair system – with clear evidence that young people, those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, men, and the most socially deprived, are most at risk.

“Those who can’t afford to pay face a criminal record along with all the resulting consequences for their future development.”

Those given fixed penalty notices by police mean people can either pay a penalty – between £200 and £10,000 – or opt to face a criminal prosecution.

According to the report, coronavirus rules have changed at least 65 times since March 2020.

“It is possible to tell from penalties that have not been paid and have then progressed through the system towards a prosecution, that a significant number of FPNs are incorrectly issued,” the committee said.

It highlighted a Crown Prosecution Service review of prosecutions under coronavirus regulations which found in February that 27% of the defendants had been incorrectly charged.

In January, two women received an apology and had their fines waived after being given fixed penalty notices after driving to a Derbyshire beauty spot for exercise.

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