CPS review: Prosecutions made under UK Coronavirus Act declared unlawful

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All prosecutions made under the UK’s new Coronavirus Act that were reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service were found to be unlawful, including that of a woman who was fined £660 after being stopped while “loitering” at a railway station in Newcastle.

A report in The Independent says the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) revealed that all 44 charges it had so far checked had been withdrawn or overturned. Several Coronavirus Act cases, including some against children, are ongoing and the number of dropped cases is expected to rise, notes the report.

The CPS launched a review of all prosecutions under coronavirus laws after several miscarriages of justice were highlighted by the media. Greg McGill, the CPS director of legal services, said all the wrongful charges had been brought by police in England and Wales.

“Under the Coronavirus Act all 44 charges were incorrect,” he is quoted in the report as saying. “The main problem was that they didn’t relate to potentially infectious people who refused to co-operate with police or public health officers requiring them to be screened for COVID-19. That was the reason for the incorrect charges.”

Of the 44 wrongful charges, 31 were withdrawn in court and 13 cases were relisted following convictions. Eleven people were charged under the separate Health Protection Regulations instead, which enforce restrictions on movement and gatherings. More than 14,000 fines have been handed out under the regulations across England and Wales since 27 March, the report says figures show.

There is no route to appeal the penalties without refusing to pay and risking prosecution. The CPS review found that 175 out of 187 charges under the regulations were correct. “Where mistakes were made it was usually because Welsh regulations were used in England or vice versa,” McGill said.

Full report in The Independent

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