Pandemic Police: UK to Review All Coronavirus Criminal Cases After Reports of Wrongful Convictions

Police officers from North Yorkshire Police stop motorists in cars to check that their travel is "essential", in line with the British Government's Covid-19 advice to "Stay at Home", in York, northern England on March 30, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel …
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of the United Kingdom will begin reviewing every charge, conviction, and sentence that has been brought under emergency laws following reports that overzealous police have wrongfully charged people during the pandemic.

Police forces throughout the country have been using the powers granted to the under the act — specifically with the clause dealing with potentially infected people — to charge people that they felt were outdoors without a good excuse.

“These are exceptional powers. We need to make sure they are being applied consistently and lawfully,” a CPS spokesman told The Times.

“We are working with all police forces and prosecutors to make sure the new Coronavirus Act and Regulations are being correctly applied. Unlawful charges are being withdrawn by prosecutors in court, and we are asking for any wrongful convictions to be overturned,” he added.

The decision by the CPS to review came shortly after civil liberties watchdog Big Brother Watch published a review of what it termed the “staggering incompetence” that has occurred during the national lockdown.

The group highlighted the case of Marie Dinou, who was arrested and fined £660 for refusing to tell British Transport Police her reason for travelling. Ms Dinou was charged under Schedule 21 of the act which criminalises “failing without reasonable excuse to comply with any direction, reasonable instruction, requirement or restriction”. This section of the law only grants the police to take such actions against “potentially infectious persons”.

The conviction against Dinou was later overturned, with police admitting: “We fully accept that this shouldn’t have happened and we apologise.”

In response to the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to review all coronavirus cases, Big Brother Watch said in a statement: “This is a vital move by the CPS. Criminalisation of behaviours that were entirely ordinary and lawful just weeks ago should be a last resort in this pandemic as criminal records can change people’s lives. We’ve been shocked to find a string of wrongful coronavirus convictions resulting from serious incompetence by police, the CPS and magistrates.”

“This unprecedented review is a reflection of how these draconian emergency powers risk confusion, criminalisation and unduly stripping people of their liberty,” the civil liberties group added.

Since the lockdown measures were introduced, police in the UK have issued over 9,000 fines to citizens for allegedly breaking the government’s lockdown measures.

Staunch Brexiteer Steve Baker said that the “absurd, dystopian and tyrannical” lockdown measures should be ended as soon as possible, saying that the laws were imposed on the nation without democratic consent.

“The zealous criminalisation of people for activity that, until a few weeks ago was entirely ordinary, has concerned many, including me. I am horrified by the expansion of the surveillance state, with thermal imaging cameras, drones, ANPR and location tracking being deployed at the drop of a hat to police the nation into imprisonment at home,” Baker wrote in The Telegraph.

“The world just changed, but British values have not. It is imperative we hold ministers’ and the Prime Minister’s feet to the fire to uphold Parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and the freedoms which rest upon them,” Baker added.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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