A parliamentary committee is calling for all fines issued during lockdown to be reviewed due to a “lack of legal clarity”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) – which consists of MPs and Lords – is a group that scrutinises each government bill for ‘its compatibility with human rights’, and members said they had “significant concerns” about the validity of lockdown fines.
According to the committee’s new report, COVID rules have changed at least 65 times since March 2020 – and the “unfair” system was leading to fines being “incorrectly issued.”
More than 85,000 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPRs) have been distributed in England during the pandemic so far.
Breaches considered to be the most serious – and where the organiser has organised gatherings of more than 30 people – have seen fines of £10,000.
£800 penalties have also been introduced for house parties where there are over 15 attendees.
But the JCHR has said that lockdown fines need to be scrutinised – with committee Chair Harriet Harman stating that the “whole process disproportionately hits the less well-off and criminalises the poor over the better off.”
Ms Harman added: “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.
“Those who can’t afford to pay face a criminal record along with all the resulting consequences for their future development.”
It was revealed this week that a law firm has taken up case of Karen Reissmann – a frontline worker who was fined £10,000 for organising a St Peter’s Square protest against the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers.
Despite an initial review, GMP have so far upheld the fine – with the force “satisfied that the issue was proportionate, legal, accountable and necessary in the circumstances.”
Organisers of an impromptu gig at Platt Fields Park featuring AJ Tracey were fined £10,000 in a high-profile breach earlier this month – with hundreds flocking to see the rapper visit Manchester.
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