Britain's first conviction for breaching lockdown was ILLEGAL
First person to be prosecuted for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules will have conviction quashed because police arrested her under the wrong law
- Marie Dinou, 41, from York, was arrested by a British Transport Police (BTP)
- Found ‘loitering between platforms’ at Newcastle Central station on Saturday
- Charged with failing to comply with requirements of the Coronavirus Act 2020
- Police now drop case after admitting their interpretation of law was wrong
The first person prosecuted for breaching Britain’s coronavirus lockdown will have her conviction quashed after police used ‘powers they don’t have’ to arrest her.
Marie Dinou, 41, from York, was fined £800 after allegedly failing to tell officers her name and why she was at Newcastle Central railway station.
British Transport Police, who carried out the arrest, said she was detained because she ‘refused to speak’ to officers after being seen ‘loitering between platforms’ last Saturday.
On Monday she was fined at North Tyneside magistrates’ court after she was found guilty of ‘failing to provide identity or reasons for travel to police, and failing to comply with requirements under the Coronavirus Act’.
But legal experts including QC Kirsty Brimelow quickly established the case had been bungled by the police, CPS and the courts because she was found guilty using the wrong legislation.
Ms Dinou’s case will be listed again at court – but detectives will not seek a new trial, meaning the case will be dropped and her conviction dropped, in another blow for police whose enforcement of the lockdown has been branded ‘over-zealous’ and nudging the UK towards a ‘police state’.
Marie Dinou, 41, from York, was prosecuted and fined £800 after allegedly failing to tell police her name and why she was at Newcastle Central station – but experts say her prosecution appears to have been unlawful
Ms Dinou’s charge sheet shows she was prosecuted under new powers relating to potentially infectious persons in Schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act – but police said she was prosecuted for failing to identify herself, BTP today admiotted their interpretation was wrong
Adrian Hanstock, deputy chief constable of the BTP, said: ‘There will be understandable concern that our interpretation of this new legislation has resulted in an ineffective prosecution.
What is the Coronavirus Act – and how did police get the railway prosecution wrong?
The Coronavirus Act 2020 was rushed through Parliament last month and received Royal Assent March 25.
It gave emergency powers to enable the government to respond to the pandemic – and gave police emergency powers to enforce the Government.
Police have handed out hundreds of £60 fines to those flouting the new law so far.
Experts say that Marie Dinou should also have been treated in this way – or used existing legislation.
But instead police pursued a prosecution using Schedule 21 of the act.
Schedule 21 grants powers to public health officers, the police and immigration officers which relate to people who are, or may be, infected with coronavirus.
People can then be forced into self-quarantine at home or be forced to take a coronavirus test.
But in Ms Dinou’s case police admitted they didn’t believe she was infected.
And they also claimed that she ‘failed to give her identity’ or ‘reason for journey’ – but the Coronavirus Act does not make that illegal.
‘This was in circumstances where officers were properly dealing with someone who was behaving suspiciously in the station, and who staff believed to be travelling without a valid ticket. Officers were rightfully challenging her unnecessary travel. Regardless, we fully accept that this shouldn’t have happened and we apologise.’
According to the charge sheet presented in court, Dinou was prosecuted under Schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act.
This clause is meant to force people to self-isolate or be tested for coronavirus, if they are suspected to have it and are endangering the public by being out of the house.
But British Transport Police confirmed earlier this week they didn’t believe she was ill – nor did they ask her to self-isolate or be screened – and the prosecution began to unravel.
More damning is guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), which is clear that under the act officers have no power to ‘stop and account’, or force someone to explain themselves.
Kirsty Brimelow, QC, the first chairwoman of the Bar Human Rights Committee, highlighted the case and other senior lawyers agreed with her summary.
She told The Times: ‘Powers under the Coronavirus Act [do not] relate to a direction to provide identity or reason for a journey. So it seems that she has been prosecuted and convicted for an offence which does not exist under this act’.
She added: ‘The police seem to have applied powers they don’t have. Whatever the investigation, the prosecution has to be right under the act’.
Leading QC Kirsty Brimelow says that Ms Dinou, who has a criminal record, has the right to appeal
Marie Dinou, 41, from York, was seen ‘loitering between platforms’ at Newcastle Central station (pictured last week) and charged with failing to comply with requirements imposed under the Coronavirus Act
Critics warned that Ms Dinou’s case suggests police could try to treat anyone out during the lockdowm suspects as ‘potentially infectious’ to perform arrests.
Police powers to tackle people flouting the coronavirus lockdown
- Up to two years in prison if you cough deliberately on someone after spate of attacks on police and emergency service workers
- People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and can be arrested as part of new enforcement powers announced by the Home Office.
- Officers can also tell them to go home, leave or disperse an area and ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking the law.
- Those who refuse to comply could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
- Second-time offenders could be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.
- Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose fines up to £1,000 or more;
This is only meant to be used when someone who should be in self-isolation refuse to go home or to be screened.
Big Brother Watch, who have accused UK forces of going to far, said today: ;Police need to be trusted with these extreme powers – but they’ve fallen at the first hurdle’.
Director Silkie Carlo said: ‘The Coronavirus Act gives police huge powers to police to arbitrarily fine, detain and punish potentially anyone in this country.
‘The new law defines ‘potentially infectious persons’ so loosely as to be meaningless and capture the entire British public.
‘It seems here that someone who declined to give police their personal details has been classed as ‘potentially infectious’ and criminalised as a result.
‘It’s so important that people follow the government guidance to protect themselves and others. Extraordinary powers are needed in these circumstances to protect public health.
‘However, these emergency powers are the most draconian ever seen in peacetime Britain.
‘These breathtaking powers can even be used to detain and isolate our children. If the police are to maintain credibility and public trust in their handling of these extreme emergency powers, they will need to use them proportionately and in accordance with the law’.
Derbyshire Police sent up their drone and filmed people on ‘not essential’ trips to the Peak District including people posing for an ‘Instagram snap’
The ‘overzealous’ enforcement of new coronavirus laws is under the microscope.
Yesterday it emerged that Police will be able to use force on children if they flout the coronavirus lockdown.
Guidance from the College of Policing says ‘reasonable force’ can be used if a youngster is believed to be ‘outside of their premises without reasonable excuse’.
Officers also have the power to fine parents £60 for failing to stop a child from going out.
The guidance spells out that officers can remove a youngster from the streets and anyone with them if they refuse to go home. The briefing drawn up by the National Police Chiefs’ Council urges officers to make sensible decisions and use enforcement as a last resort.
It also says checks on every vehicle are ‘disproportionate’ and the public should not be punished for travelling a reasonable distance to exercise. Forces including North Yorkshire and Devon and Cornwall have put road blocks into place or deployed high visibility patrols to quiz motorists about their plans.
Derbyshire Police also faced a backlash after using drones to film walkers who had driven to the Peak District. The guidance states: ‘Use your judgment and common sense – the police will apply the law in a system that is flexible, discretionary and pragmatic. If you believe anyone is outside of their premises without reasonable excuse, including a child, you can use reasonable force in the exercise of the power.’
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