Apologies issued over wrongful coronavirus charges and convictions
Police chiefs and prosecutors have apologised after dozens of people were wrongly charged under new coronavirus laws
The Crown Prosecution Service admitted all 44 charges brought under the Coronavirus Act between March 27 and the end of April were incorrect, including 13 wrongful convictions.
And 12 charges under the Health Protection Regulations 2020, which give police powers to break up gatherings and fine people breaching restriction of movement rules, were also wrong.
It comes after the CPS launched a review of all 231 police charges under coronavirus legislation in England and Wales, where the prosecution has either been stopped or ended in a conviction.
National Police Chiefs' Council chairman Martin Hewitt said: “We do of course apologise if anybody ended up in court who shouldn't have been there.”
Asked if he was worried some of the errors went entirely unnoticed as cases went through the courts, and led to wrongful convictions, CPS service director of legal services, Gregor McGill, said: “Where we get things wrong it's right that we do apologise for that.”
Mr McGill said 175 out of the 187 charges had been rightly applied, with errors coming when Welsh regulations were used in England or vice versa.
He said 38 of the 44 charges had been brought alongside other offences, including assaults on emergency workers, theft and burglary, while 31 of the wrongful charges were withdrawn in court.
Some 13 resulted in wrongful convictions, said to have typically been dealt with by ‘financial penalties’.
Those have been returned to court to be withdrawn, with 11 of the 13 substituted with charges under the regulations.
Mr McGill described the ‘immense pressure’ on police and prosecutors as the new laws came into force within 72 hours.
But he added: “I don't want that to seem like I'm dismissing the concerns, I am concerned, there's an expectation that we should get things, and that's absolutely right, and where we don't we should apologise, be open and transparent about what's gone wrong, and be open and transparent about what we are doing to try and make sure it doesn't happen again.”