A HUMAN rights group has suggested there is a “strong case” that many people given fines for Covid breaches should be refunded as they say communities were subjected to disproportionate and harmful policing.
It was, this month, revealed that North Yorkshire Police and Durham Police have issued thousands of fines and Cleveland Police have issued hundreds of fines, according to recent figures.
Figures published by the National Police Chief’s Council show that 4,008 fixed penalty notices were issued by North Yorkshire Police between March 27 2020 and December 19 last year.
Durham Police figures showed that 1,094 fixed penalty notices were issued during the same period and 506 fixed penalty notices were issued by Cleveland Police.
14 of the North Yorkshire penalties were recorded in May 17 when different households were allowed to mix indoors for the first time in several months.
Just six of the Durham Police fines were recorded from May 17 and just four were recorded by Cleveland Police from May 17.
Since that date, some forces have revised down their total number of fines, while others have issued hundreds.
After being contacted by The Northern Echo human rights group, Liberty has argued that from the start, the government has pursued a “misguided” approach based on coercion and punishment rather than support.
The group has argued that there is a strong case that many people given fines for Covid breaches should receive reimbursement.
Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns for Liberty said: “Police were handed sweeping new powers and both police forces and the public were clearly confused about what was and wasn’t illegal.
“The rushed-through nature of Coronavirus laws and the chaotic communications from government made it highly likely that the result would be misuse of those powers and wrongful fines, and in April the Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended that every single fine levied under coronavirus regulations must be reviewed.
“There is a strong case that many people given fines for covid breaches should receive reimbursement due to the clear disproportionality at play and rates of unlawfulness.”
The Government has recently come under fire following a series of reports on parties and large gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street while the rest of the UK was under restrictions.
Yesterday it was announced that Scotland Yard would be investigating reports of alleged parties being held at Downing Street and Whithall.
Boris Johnson was also facing fresh allegations of breaking Coronavirus rules after Downing Street admitted he had a birthday celebration inside No 10 during the first lockdown.
Of the FPMs issued across England and Wales so far, 377 were for holding a gathering of more than 30 people – though non were recorded in North Yorkshire, but two took place in Durham and two in Cleveland.
A National Police Chief Council spokesman said all forces have first sought to engage and explain Covid laws to people, and only enforce them when necessary.
Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, NPCC lead for Operation Talla, the police response to the pandemic, said there are still some restrictions – such as the use of face coverings and self-isolation rules – in place for good reason.
He added: “We have observed very high compliance by the public.
"Officers have very rarely had to use their powers in recent months, only enforcing where there are clear breaches of the rules or people haven't responded to explanation and encouragement.”
The Northern Echo approached the NPCC in regards to the calls for reimbursement but they have yet to respond.
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