More than 4,000 people taken to court in 2020 for breaking coronavirus laws

More than 4,000 people were prosecuted last year for breaking coronavirus laws, according to official figures.

Some 3,536 people of the 4,367 prosecuted were convicted, with most offences related to flouting lockdown rules.

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) quarterly statistics report to December set out new offences dealt with by courts in 2020 under fresh laws which enforced restrictions introduced during the pandemic, like Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations and the Coronavirus Act.

The majority of these cases resulted in a fine, at an average of £374.

Out of 4,230 prosecutions for breaches of emergency restrictions, there were 3,506 convictions. These led to 3,464 fines, three community sentences and one person being jailed for six months.

Most (928) were handed fines of between £500 and £750, although 81 received fixed penalty notices (FPNs) of between £1,000 and £2,500.

Thirty were given a discharge – where no punishment is imposed – although 17 of these were conditional so they will face further action if they offend again.

Out of 25 prosecutions for offences relating to events and gatherings, six people were convicted and fined. The highest fine was between £750 and £1,000.

Some 105 prosecutions for offences by potentially infectious people led to 21 convictions, most of which resulted in fines.

An officer from Avon and Somerset Police chats with a passenger at Bristol Airport
An officer from Avon and Somerset Police chats with a passenger at Bristol Airport (PA)

According to the data, no-one was handed a so-called super fine of £10,000 or more by the courts last year for coronavirus breaches.

But the report said the figures may not reflect all prosecutions launched last year as some may still be in progress.

The data also shows the overall number of people being prosecuted or handed out-of-court disposals fell by 26% last year as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

There were around 1.13 million people formally dealt with by the criminal justice system in England and Wales in 2020, according to the report.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reviewed coronavirus cases amid concerns over wrongful prosecutions.

Last week it said that in the 12 months to March this year 549 incorrect charges were identified which were either withdrawn by prosecutors at the first court hearing or set aside.