Politics

Call for all Covid fines and prosecutions to be reviewed amid claims of unlawful conviction

CAMPAIGNERS, lawyers and MPs have called on the Justice Secretary to urgently review all coronavirus fines and prosecutions.

More than 40 politicians and 15 human rights groups made the demand to Dominic Raab amid claims there is “substantial evidence that thousands of people have been wrongfully fined and even prosecuted unlawfully under coronavirus-related legislation” while there are “allegations of numerous offences under these same laws in the heart of Government”.

Thousands of fines were issued by police during the pandemic for breaches of lockdown laws.

In a letter published by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch and criminal justice watchdog Fair Trials, the signatories highlight “discriminatory, inconsistent and unlawful” enforcement of coronavirus laws.

They claim there is an “urgent need for a review of the enforcement of coronavirus-related laws and regulations, in order for justice to be served”, calling for wrongfully or unlawfully issued fines to be repaid, prosecutions withdrawn and criminal convictions rescinded.

Conservative MPs David Davis and Steve Baker, former shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti and ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as well as Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael are among those backing the call.

Griff Ferris, legal and policy officer at Fair Trials, said: “The criminal justice response to the pandemic has been heavy-handed, with police across the country criminalising thousands of people and dispensing significant financial penalties at what is a time of extreme hardship for many.

“People deserve justice, and that means refunding fines, withdrawing prosecutions, and deleting criminal records.”

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, added: “This Government has thrown the country into a rule of law crisis and urgent action is needed to protect justice.

“We have set out how thousands of people have been unlawfully fined and prosecuted by a broken justice system, under constantly changing coronavirus laws, the most restrictive in British peacetime.

“It is an insult and grave injustice for innocent people who have found themselves wrongly criminalised, whilst allegations of law-breaking engulf Downing Street.”

The Ministry of Justice said the policy was overseen by the Home Office, which has been contacted for comment.

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