In a report published on Tuesday, the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), which is composed of both MPs and peers, set out “significant concerns” over the so-called fixed penalty notices (FPNs).
🗣️” Every Fixed Penalty Notice issued under #coronavirus Regulations must be reviewed”.
Read our Report published today⬇️https://t.co/H322RD9UgV
— UK Parliament Human Rights Committee (@HumanRightsCtte) April 27, 2021
Since the first CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus lockdown began in March 2020, more than 85,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued to people said to have broken COVID-19 restrictions.
The fines, which allow people to pay a penalty instead of facing prosecution and a potential criminal record, range from £200 ($278) for the failure to wear a face covering to £10,000 ($13,905) for organising ‘illegal’ gatherings.
The committee found that “a significant number of FPNs are incorrectly issued.”
According to a Crown Prosecution Service review of prosecutions brought under COVID-19 regulations that reached open court in February 2021, as many as 27 percent were incorrectly charged.
“Many more penalties may have been paid by people too intimidated by the prospect of a criminal trial to risk contesting their FPN through a criminal prosecution,” said the report.
The committee was concerned about the “high rates of error and the disproportionate impact on different groups in society” and recommended “a more graduated approach and consideration of removing these convictions from criminal records.”
According to the report, regulations related to COVID-19 restrictions have changed at least 65 times since March 2020, making it hard for police to understand and enforce the rules correctly.
Harriet Harman, a Labour MP who chairs the committee, noted that “since January there have been greater numbers of FPNs as police move more quickly to enforcement action, and because of a lack of legal clarity, likely greater numbers of incorrectly issued FPNs.”
She said that the government’s COVID-19 regulations “are neither straightforward nor easily understood either by those who have to obey them or the police who have to enforce them.”
“With fixed penalties of up to £10,000 [$13,905] awarded irrespective of the individual’s financial circumstances, there is much at stake,” she said. “The government needs to review the pandemic regulations and create new checks and balances to prevent errors and discrimination.”