Ex-Justice Secretary Calls For Covid Fine Amnsety

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covid fines

The UK Justice Secretary who oversaw the courts during the pandemic says we need an amnesty for the more than 29,000 people given criminal convictions for breaking covid rules.

According to Sir Robert Buckland, the 29,383 people who were fined by the courts should have their “slates wiped clean” rather than risk their career prospects being hampered by convictions handed out at an “exceptional time”.

The Telegraph reports: Sir Robert’s call has been backed by two former Cabinet ministers and charities while a source close to Alex Chalk, the current Justice Secretary, said he was also sympathetic to the idea of wiping the slate clean.

Magistrates fined people for breaking Covid restrictions, resulting in criminal convictions that could bar them from working as teachers, social workers or police officers.

Police can pass on these details to potential employers if they are deemed ‘relevant’ for criminal background checks for sensitive jobs where applicants deal with vulnerable people or children.

People are also required to declare any criminal convictions when applying for visas to visit countries like the U.S. and Canada, both of which reserve the right to permanently ban anyone who fails to reveal one.

Offences including attending gatherings, leaving home during lockdowns and failing to wear face coverings resulted in fines, with three quarters of those handed out between 2020 and 2023 going to people under the age of 40.

Sir Robert, who was Justice Secretary from July 2019 to September 2021, said any background criminal checks should focus on those who might be a threat to public safety, rather than people fined in the “exceptional circumstances” of a pandemic.

He said: “It is not proportionate or necessary at a time when we want to encourage and support as many people back to work as possible. If it is not being recorded in the usual way as a previous conviction, I would wipe the slate clean.”

Sir Robert is among three former Cabinet ministers and charities demanding an amnesty following the Government’s previous assurances that Covid fines were not intended to criminalise large numbers of people.

Sir David Davis, a former Cabinet Minister, said all but the most egregious breaches should be “obliterated” from the record. He said: “Much of the Covid regulation was heavy handed, unnecessary and penalised people wrongly. For this to turn into a lifetime penalty is a shameful disgrace and we should correct it as soon as possible.”

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Business Secretary, said: “It is time for an amnesty on Covid fines which were an unnecessarily draconian measure at the time but with hindsight look entirely disproportionate.”

Penelope Gibbs, Director of charity Transform Justice, said: “The Covid laws were enacted too hastily, poorly drafted and badly explained. So people often broke the law unwittingly and had no right to free legal advice if they were prosecuted.

“Many of those fined now have criminal convictions which could harm their job chances for years to come. We should have an amnesty that wipes the slate clean of all these Covid offences.”

Among those landed with convictions were an 18-year-old student who attended a party during a lockdown, a 35-year-old man who hosted family members on New Year’s Eve and a 72-year-old woman who travelled back from Kenya without evidence of a negative Covid test.

Niamh Harris
About Niamh Harris 15193 Articles
I am an alternative health practitioner interested in helping others reach their maximum potential.