Majority of coronavirus fines going unpaid in some parts of England, data shows

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  • November 18, 2020
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ore than three in five coronavirus fines have gone unpaid in some parts of England, new figures show.

Nine forces saw 60 per cent or more of the penalties go unpaid within 28 days between March 27 and September 21, according to the data.

The highest proportion of unpaid fines was in the Cleveland force area, where 72 per cent of fines for the period, 215 out of 298, went unpaid.

In Northumbria the proportion was 68 per cent, with 188 out of 278 fines not paid.

While in West Yorkshire 66 per cent of fines, 497 out of 756, went unpaid, according to data from the criminal records office ACRO.

There were six more regional forces where 60 per cent or more of the penalties went unpaid within 28 days – Staffordshire (65 per cent, 28 out of 43), Durham (65 per cent, 115 out of 178), Humberside (63 per cent, 88 out of 140), Merseyside (61 per cent, 300 out of 492), West Midlands (61 per cent, 230 out of 380), and South Yorkshire (60 per cent, 225 out of 375).

For British Transport Police, 60 per cent of fines issued in England were unpaid within 28 days (197 out of 327), while the figure was 71 per cent for the penalties handed out in Wales (17 out of 24).

It was previously disclosed that about half of fines nationally went unpaid in the 28-day period, although chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Martin Hewitt said this proportion is similar to other fixed-penalty notices.

The total number of fines issued in England and Wales between March 27 and September 21 was 18,912.

People who receive a coronavirus fine can appeal in the first instance to the police force that handed out the penalty, to try to get it withdrawn.

In three areas, 40 per cent or more of penalty notices were rescinded by the force after being issued during the period. These were Merseyside (48 per cent, 236) Staffordshire (47 per cent, 20), and Derbyshire (44 per cent, 111).

This was also true for British Transport Police in England, which withdrew 40 per cent (131) of fines.

For the forces with the most unpaid fines, Cleveland rescinded 21 per cent (63), Northumbria 13 per cent (35) and West Yorkshire Police 29 per cent (217).

British Transport Police Wales withdrew 33 per cent (8), Durham 19 per cent (33), Humberside 1 per cent (2), West Midlands 25 per cent (94), and South Yorkshire 19 per cent (70).

The figures provide a snapshot of data gathered by forces as of September 21, and as a result of the way the figures are recorded, may contain some overlap between the number of unpaid fines, those rescinded and formally contested.

Lawyer Raj Chada, head of the criminal defence department at Hodge Jones & Allen, described Covid regulations as a “mess” and said criminal law needed to be clear and consistent otherwise it becomes “arbitrary and unfair”.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, a human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said it was “predictable” people would stop paying fines, with some not being able to afford to pay them, or not feeling they did break any laws, while others “may just be resentful that those in power acted as if the laws did not apply to them”.

Calling for panels to be set up to review fines, she said: “Currently, it is a lottery whether you are fined and whether it will be rescinded.

“And it is questionable as to how effective issuing fines is to preventing the spread of the virus.

“Rather they are adding stress and hardship to people who already are suffering.”

Reporting by the Press Association