North Yorkshire Police has defended its decisions to issue fixed penalty notices for alleged breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules as the national police advisory body revealed it was considering calls to review whether fines had been given correctly.
Police in North Yorkshire, which handed out 843 fixed penalty notices between March 27 and May 11, said scrutiny measures were already in place for the fines it had issued.
The forces have made the statements after civil liberties groups called for a review of the fines, amid fears some have been “wrongly issued”.
They said while a Crown Prosecution Service review of 231 prosecutions under the Coronavirus Act or Health Protection Regulations 2020 had identified 56 as incorrect, fines had been issued with less scrutiny than charges, which go before a magistrates’ court.
Civil rights groups Big Brother Watch and Liberty urged the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) to launch of a review of all the fines.
Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: “There could be hundreds or even thousands of people in this country, many already suffering financial hardship, who have paid police fines despite having done nothing wrong. The CPS review revealed an outbreak of injustice and we fear it could be just the tip of the iceberg.”
An NPCC spokesman said it was considering the civil rights groups’ call. Its chair Martin Hewitt added: “The figures show our approach is proportionate with just 0.02 per cent of the population in England and Wales being issued with a fine.”
North Yorkshire Police said the force would welcome any national scrutiny of fixed penalty notices, but it had already put its own scrutiny measures in place for the fines, including a quality control process where the notices are checked for compliance before they are submitted to the Criminal Records Office.
In addition, the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan has been hosting a regular scrutiny panel, made up of criminal justice partners and community members, which has examined Covid-19 related notices.
A force spokeswoman said: “North Yorkshire is the largest county in England and with two national parks, two areas of outstanding natural beauty, a picturesque coastline and other attractions, under normal circumstances is a magnet for visitors. This has been reflected in the fines issued with over 50 per cent of notices issued to visitors from outside of the area.”