Covid-19: When is a prosecution lawful?

Legally reviewed by: Kevin Waddingham In: Covid-19

As a review finds all prosecutions under the new Coronavirus Act unlawful, David Hallmark, Head of Crime at Cartwright King outlines why this might be the case.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received royal assent on 25th March 2020.

The Act is a substantial piece of legislation which consists of 102 sections, 29 Schedules and is just under 360 pages.  It is intended to deal with a multitude of issues that are likely to be caused by the pandemic which is reflected in the many areas of life it seeks to regulate including public gatherings, sick pay, pensions and inquests amongst others.

Whilst the powers conferred by the 2020 Act are broad and far reaching, the legislation is intended to be on an emergency basis.   Section 89 of the Act creates a “sunset clause” which means that most of the provisions will expire after two years has elapsed.

In the mean time, the Police and Crown Prosecution Service have had to interpret the legislation.  In relation to the main criminal offence under the Act; this relates to potentially infectious persons who refuse to co-operate with the police or public health officers when they are required to be screened for Covid-19. It is notable that no cases of a potentially infectious person refusing to comply with a lawful instruction have been prosecuted.

It is no surprise that mistakes have been made during this difficult time.  A recent CPS review found that all 44 cases under the Act had been either withdrawn or returned to court.

The picture is slightly different in relation to “Health Protection Regulation” cases.  The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 is whether someone has a reasonable excuse for being outside their home, which includes going to work, exercising or caring for the vulnerable.  Out of 187 cases under the Health Protection Regulations 7 were withdrawn and 5 returned to court.

If you are arrested for breaking the lockdown rules or have been charged and have to appear before a court, contact one of our specialist Solicitors who will be able to assist you.

Cartwright King has lawyers in most areas of law, and the current information we are sharing is written by David Hallmark, Head of Criminal Law at Cartwright King.

If you have any further queries around the above topic or otherwise, contact the firm here.

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All advice is correct at time of publication.