Coronavirus lockdown rules: How do I appeal against a police fine?

Police officers across the UK now have powers to arrest or fine people flouting coronavirus lockdown rules.

Forces are being urged to be “consistent” in their approach with officers told that any action should be in line with the legislation, should be proportionate and a last resort.

While the majority of police have been praised for using common sense and taking a sensible approach to the laws, others were accused of being overzealous.

This has prompted questions on how to challenge a fine when a member of the public feels it may have been unfairly issued.

– What powers do the police have?

Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 for England, officers can take action if they “reasonably believe” someone is in contravention as long as the decision is “necessary and proportionate”.

They can order someone to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group and remove someone using “reasonable force, if necessary”.

Officers can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.

Coronavirus
Roads are closed in Richmond Park, southwest London, during the coronavirus lockdown (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Police can arrest someone refusing to comply and issue £60 fines – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

The fine doubles to £120 for a second offence and would continue to rise each time to a maximum of £960.

The fine is not a criminal conviction but those who do not pay could be taken to court.

You could also be arrested for refusing to provide your name and address to avoid being given a fine.

Similar regulations are in force in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

– How can I appeal the fine?

Firstly, check the paperwork you were given for details of the fine.

Or ask the police force in question for information on what you are said to have done to warrant the fine and under what law the penalty was issued.

According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the process of appeal for coronavirus lockdown fines is similar to that of a penalty notice for disorder (PNDs) or other fines like fixed penalty notices (FPNs).

If the fine is contested, the person receiving the fine can challenge the decision at a magistrates’ court.

A hearing would likely take place where a magistrate listens to arguments  from both sides as to why the fine was issued and why the person who received it feels it was not justified.

They then decide whether the fine is justified and still stands or should be cancelled.

  • £60 for a first offence
  • Reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days
  • £120 for a second offence
  • Costs rise for each further offence to a maximum of £960

– What are the pitfalls of challenging a fine?

It is recommended to seek legal advice before challenging a fine – but this could end up costing more than the original penalty.

If someone loses the appeal at court, they will still be liable to pay the fine and could be hit by court costs or ever handed a summary conviction.

The time it could take to contest such a fine is another consideration, lawyers have warned.

Coronavirus
Mounted police on patrol in Whitley Bay, Northumberland (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Currently the majority of courts are closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus and there is already a backlog of cases waiting to be heard.

Magistrates courts are only holding urgent hearings at present.

When courts begin to re-open it is likely other sorts of cases will take precedent so there could be some delay in the hearing taking place.

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