MPs call for a review of lockdown fines as figures show more than 750 handed out across North East

Police chiefs are facing mounting pressure to review all lockdown fines issued in England and Wales under coronavirus laws.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 10:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 10:12 am

More than 40 MPs and peers have joined calls from 13 human rights groups, lawyers and campaigners for the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) to look again at penalties handed out to those apparently flouting the rules.

A total of 18,439 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) including 15,856 in England and 2,583 in Wales were recorded by forces between March 27 and June 22, according to provisional NPCC data.

Of those, 276 were issued by Northumbria Police, 295 by Cleveland Police and 180 by Durham Constabulary – a total of 752 across the region.

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A police officer in conversation with two women in Greenwich Park, London. Police chiefs are facing mounting pressure to review all lockdown fines issued in England and Wales under coronavirus laws. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

As the country reaches 100 days of lockdown, a letter sent to NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt by the group led by organisation Big Brother Watch said the case for a review was now "extremely compelling".

The letter said: "Currently, the NPCC has neither acknowledged the systemic issue of unlawful, inconsistent and discriminatory enforcement of emergency laws, nor taken the initiative to support reviews by police forces of FPNs (fixed penalty notices).

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"No reasons were given as to why the NPCC does not support a review.

"The only means to ensure injustices are recognised and remedied is to review all fines already issued."

Due to changing rules and guidance, the number of lockdown fines has decreased significantly from mid-May when 4,796 fines were being issued across the country over a two-week period compared to the latest fortnightly figures from June which saw 523 notices were handed out across England.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey are among those to put their name to the letter alongside groups including Amnesty International UK and Liberty.

Describing the laws as "draconian" and "the most severe restrictions of rights and freedoms" since the Second World War, the letter claimed statistics published so far indicate there is a "postcode lottery" of where fines are being issued.

It raised concerns of suggestions disproportionate numbers of fines were being handed to black and Asian people - describing this as "evidence of racism, discrimination and bias".

Analysis by the PA news agency of NPCC data on fines issued in England and Wales between March 27 and June 22 suggested the rate was 47% higher for those given to people who were not white.

Comparing the number of fines to the population, using estimates broken down by ethnicity from the Office for National Statistics, indicated the number handed to white people was around 23 per every 100,000.

For those from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds, this was 34 fines per 100,000 people.

It emerged earlier this month that wrongful prosecutions were still taking place under the emergency legislation brought in to enforce the measures put in place in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

The Crown Prosecution Service is continuing to review all such prosecutions following a string of errors highlighted by journalists, lawyers and campaigners.

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