Almost 350 People Wrongly Charged or Convicted Under Coronavirus Laws

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: A woman wearing a face mask is arrested during an anti lockdown protest on December 19, 2020 in London, England. With the majority of the United Kingdom now under the strictest tier 3 lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to hold a press conference …
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Nearly 350 people have been wrongly charged or convicted under British coronavirus laws since they were brought into force in March 2020.

Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that the cases of 115 people prosecuted under the Health Protection Regulations and all of the 218 people prosecuted under the Coronavirus Act were not handled correctly.

Senior lawyer and international human rights law specialist Kirsty Brimelow, QC, analysed the figures and called the wrongful prosecutions a “systemic failure”, according to The Times on Monday.

“This is damaging to the rule of law and to democracy,” she added.

Ms Brimelow has previously spoken out over the implementation of the draconian measures, telling Spiked Online in September that “the Coronavirus Act has never been lawfully used. It has been continually misapplied.”

In May, the CPS ordered a review of all charges, convictions, and sentences made related to pandemic restrictions. Brimelow said that despite the CPS finding that a high proportion of convictions were wrongly brought — 28 per cent in the first review and 18 per cent in the second — “the cases have continued to come through”.

The lawyer said, however, that her “real concern” was for “those cases that have no safeguards and cannot be reviewed” — such as the police-issued fixed-penalty notices “where there is no appeals process”.

“Without safeguards, there is a much higher likelihood that such fines are being issued wrongly. All people who face these fines can do is pay or take their chances in court, and if they lose in court they end up with a criminal conviction,” she pointed out.

Big Brother Watch also responded to the figures, telling the newspaper of record: “Police urgently need to get a grip on these new laws and stop the endless unlawful prosecutions.”

Police in the UK have been widely criticised for their heavy-handed approach to enforcing the lockdown laws. However, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England on Monday night, the number of police interventions related to alleged coronavirus breaches will likely increase.

Leaving home without a “reasonable excuse” is now illegal until the end of lockdown, with senior minister Michael Gove saying that might not be until March.

“You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice),” the government’s guidance says, with fines starting at £200 for the first offence, then doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.

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