A group of MPs and peers are calling for a full review into the “muddled, discriminatory and unfair” Covid fines which were issued under lockdown laws.
No Covid fine should result in a criminal record and the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said the system “criminalises the poor over the better-off.”
The JCHR have raised “significant concerns” over the validity of fines and the criminalistation of those who cannot afford to pay the size of the penalties given, the report set out.
Committee chairman Harriet Harman said: “Swift action to make restrictions effective is essential in the face of this terrible virus.
“But the Government needs to ensure that rules are clear, enforcement is fair and that mistakes in the system can be rectified.
“None of that is the case in respect of Covid-19 fixed penalty notices.”
Harman acknowledged that the police had a “difficult job” enforcing the rules, but she warned that there could be a large number of fines over a “lack of legal clarity.”
She continued, “This means we’ve got an unfair system with clear evidence that young people, those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, men, and the most socially deprived, are most at risk.
“Those who can’t afford to pay face a criminal record along with all the resulting consequences for their future development.
“The whole process disproportionately hits the less well-off and criminalises the poor over the better off.”
Harman added, the Government must “distinguish clearly between advice, guidance and the law.”
She added, “Our inquiry has demonstrated that coronavirus regulations are neither straightforward nor easily understood either by those who have to obey them or the police who have to enforce them.
“With fixed penalties of up to £10,000 awarded irrespective of the individual’s financial circumstances, there is much at stake.
“The Government needs to review the pandemic regulations and create new checks and balances to prevent errors and discrimination.”
The JCHR report added, “It is astonishing that the Coronavirus Act is still being misunderstood and wrongly applied by police to such an extent that every single criminal charge brought under the Act has been brought incorrectly.
“While the coronavirus regulations have changed frequently, the Act has not, and there is no reason for such mistakes to continue.”