All prosecutions under the Coronavirus Act have now been dropped, CPS admits

·2 min read
Police often charged people under the wrong part of the law
Police often charged people under the wrong part of the law

Not a single person has been successfully prosecuted under the Coronavirus Act despite almost 300 people being charged, it has emerged.

Figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following a 12 month review, revealed that all 270 cases had been dropped before making it to court.

The vast majority of prosecutions were withdrawn because the police - confused by the constantly changing laws - had charged people with the wrong offence.

The Coronavirus Act was introduced in March last year at the beginning of the pandemic and granted the government emergency powers to protect public health.

The law allowed ministers to order the closure of shops, schools, restaurants and transport networks in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

But it also introduced a criminal offence allowing the prosecution of potentially infectious people who refused to be screened for coronavirus.

Accompanying regulations required people to remain indoors during lockdown, wear face masks in certain public places and adhere to social distancing.

More than 100,000 people were issued with fines for breaches of the law or the regulations, and almost 2,000 who refused to pay the fines were prosecuted.

But of the 270 cases charged under the Coronavirus Act, all of them were subsequently dropped.

Of the 1,551 prosecutions brought under the regulations 277 were dropped or withdrawn while 2 people were found not guilty, representing 18 percent of all cases.

The regulations changed more than 60 times during the pandemic as lockdowns were introduced and lifted.

Sources at the CPS said there was often confusion among the police regarding which part of the law to apply which had led to many cases having to be withdrawn.

Gregor McGill, CPS Director of Legal Services, said: “Prosecutors have now reviewed almost 2,000 coronavirus cases charged in the first 12 months of the pandemic, providing an invaluable public service at a time of national emergency.

“All of us in the criminal justice system have had to adapt at great speed to this fast-moving situation, with every effort made to strike a proportionate balance between protecting public safety and the interests of justice.

“The CPS has said throughout that coronavirus rule breaches should be treated as serious given the public health risks and many of these prosecutions were brought against people accused of wider offending. However, it is right that any errors are rectified as part of this review.

“We will continue to work closely with police colleagues and other partners to ensure a consistent interpretation of these laws for as long as they remain in place.”