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Thousands of Covid fines in Northeast could be revised after ‘police made mistakes’ UK News

Every fine imposed by police for breaking foreclosure rules must be reviewed to ensure they are fair, an investigation has found.

And convictions for breaking the rules, which can lead to a criminal record, should also be reconsidered.

Northumbria Police have issued more than 4,000 fines, more than any other force in the country, on those accused of violating coronavirus restrictions. This could include not wearing a face covering.

Durham Police had fined 306 people for Covid violations until January 17, and the figure is likely higher today.

The basic fine is £ 200 for a first offense, lowered to £ 100 if paid within 14 days, with the amount doubling for other offenses.

A small number of fines imposed, called superfines, can reach £ 10,000.

But Parliament’s Joint Human Rights Committee, which includes MPs and members of the House of Lords, warned that forces across the country had imposed fines incorrectly.

Fines are fixed penalty notices, which means alleged violators can choose to pay instead of going to court.

If they just pay, there is no risk of having a criminal record. However, if they dispute or fail to pay, they face a hearing that could result in a criminal conviction.

A Crown Prosecution Service review of coronavirus regulation prosecutions that reached public hearing in February 2021, found 27% had been wrongfully indicted.

This suggests that the police have misinterpreted the law in a significant number of cases.

But the committee warned most people would just pay the fine because they didn’t want to risk legal action. And that meant that many people had paid fines when they shouldn’t have.

In a report released today, MPs and Members of the House of Lords said: “ Our concerns are so serious that we recommend that every sanction imposed since the start of the pandemic under the regulations containing the restrictions introduced for responding to Covid-19 the epidemic must be reviewed and new checks must be introduced into the system to prevent errors and discrimination from occurring in the future. “

Although the Committee said police across the country made mistakes, it said the forces were not entirely to blame because the rules were muddled and even government ministers, who were responsible for the legislation. , were sometimes wrong.

The inquest said: “Coronavirus regulations have changed at least 65 times since March 2020; this has posed obvious challenges for police.

“The government has often produced guidance that differs from the law without clarifying that distinction.

In addition, ministers have made misleading and inaccurate comments about what is and is not allowed under coronavirus regulations.

“We were told that a recent survey showed that nine in ten police officers did not think the coronavirus regulations were clear.

“In such circumstances, the possibilities for making mistakes are high. It has the potential to raise rule of law issues.”

Joint Human Rights Committee Chair Harriet Harman MP said: “Swift action to make the restrictions effective is essential in the face of this terrible virus.

“But the government must ensure that the rules are clear, that their application is fair and that errors in the system can be rectified. None of this is the case when it comes to covid-19 fixed penalty notices. .

“Police have had a difficult job policing in the pandemic. We hope that their initial approach – engage, explain and encourage before issuing Fixed Sanction Notices (FPNs) will continue.

“However, since January there have been more NPFs as police move more quickly to law enforcement action and, due to a lack of legal clarity, likely more of FPNs issued incorrectly.

“This means that we have an unfair system with clear evidence that young people, those from certain ethnic minorities, men and the socially disadvantaged are the most at risk.

“Whether people think the FPN is deserved or not, those who can afford it are likely to pay a fine to avoid crime.

“Those who cannot afford to pay face a criminal record with all the consequences for their future development. The whole process disproportionately hits the less well off and criminalizes the poor versus the better off. . “