All Covid fines in England should be reviewed, MPs say

All 85,000-plus Covid fines issued in England during the pandemic should be reviewed, MPs and peers have said, after more than a quarter of prosecutions in the first two months of the year for breaching the regulations were shown to have been wrongly brought.

The joint committee on human rights said coronavirus regulations, which have been changed at least 65 times since March last year, were muddled, discriminatory and unfair.

As well as a review of all fixed penalty notices (FPNs), its members suggest no criminal record should result from Covid FPNs, the income of those hit with big fines – the maximum is £10,000 – should be assessed, and there should be a mechanism to challenge future fines.

Harriet Harman, the chair of the cross-party committee, said: “Swift action to make restrictions effective is essential in the face of this terrible virus. But the government needs to ensure that rules are clear, enforcement is fair and that mistakes in the system can be rectified. None of that is the case in respect of Covid-19 fixed penalty notices.

“This means we’ve got an unfair system with clear evidence that young people, those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, men and the most socially deprived are most at risk. Whether people feel the FPN is deserved or not, those who can afford it are likely to pay a penalty to avoid criminality. Those who can’t afford to pay face a criminal record along with all the resulting consequences for their future development. The whole process disproportionately hits the less well-off and criminalises the poor over the better-off.”

She acknowledged that the police have a difficult job but 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”.

Read more of Haroon Siddique’s report here: All Covid fines in England should be reviewed, MPs say

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