A York woman who was fined £660 for breaking new coronavirus lockdown rules could have her conviction set aside after it emerged police misinterpreted the legislation.
Marie Dinou, 41, was arrested at Newcastle Central Station on Saturday after she allegedly failed to tell officers why she needed to travel, British Transport Police (BTP) said.
She was arrested on suspicion of breaking restrictions imposed under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and subsequently fined at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
But the BTP said that, following a joint review with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), it had established that she was charged under the incorrect section of the Coronavirus Act.
Conviction set aside
The BTP said it has now agreed to contact the court and ask for the case to be relisted and the conviction set aside.
In a statement, deputy chief constable Adrian Hanstock said:
There will be understandable concern that our interpretation of this new legislation has resulted in an ineffective prosecution.
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.
Mr Hanstock said his officers were “rightfully challenging her unnecessary travel”.
He added: “Regardless, we fully accept that this shouldn’t have happened and we apologise.
“It is highly unusual that a case can pass through a number of controls in the criminal justice process and fail in this way.”
The BTP confirmed it would not pursue any alternative prosecution in the matter.
Officers given new guidance
Mr Hanstock said frontline officers have since been provided with the latest guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council to “help them” interpret the new legislation.
“I must remind the public that officers will continue to engage with people and seek to understand their reasons for their journeys,” Mr Hanstock said.
“Where we determine that there is no justifiable purpose for them being on the transport network, we will explain to the public why they should not travel.”
He said the new coronavirus law would be applied “as a last resort” and “where situations develop”.
The BTP said it will undertake a more detailed review of the case with the CPS to “ensure that any lessons to be learned are integrated into our shared justice processes”.
Under schedule 21 of the Coronavirus Act, it is illegal to fail to comply with the instructions of police officers without reasonable excuse.
The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000.