The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that it was “unacceptable” that “many thousands” were receiving fixed penalty notices (FPNs)
Britons are being fined for breaches of COVID-19 lockdown regulations that are “unclear and ambiguous”, according to a parliamentary committee.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that it was “unacceptable” and that “many thousands” were receiving fixed penalty notices (FPNs) despite the evidence that the police did not fully understand the limitations of their powers.
It added that the way regulations throughout the UK were being enforced by the police were having a “disproportionate impact” on young men from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
This comes after the Department for Transport (DfT) has said that rail franchising has been “ended” as the department seeks a new model for the nation’s rail network in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Many of the UK’s coronavirus regulations were “confusingly named”, the committee had warned, which makes it difficult for people in the country to establish what they were permitted to do.
“This will invariably lead to injustice as members of the public who have been unfairly targeted with an FPN have no means of redress and police will know that their actions are unlikely to be scrutinised,” the committee said.
The committee has advised the government to call for greater clarity on the coronavirus social distancing rules and to “distinguish between advice, guidance and the law” as the regulations continue to change once a week on average.
“In particular, more must be done to make the up-to-date regulations themselves (not only guidance) clearly accessible online, particularly as the law has changed, on average, once a week,” the committee said.
“It ought to be straightforward for a member of the public to find out what the current criminal law is, nationally and in their local area, without having to trawl through multiple sets of confusingly named regulations.”
Committee chairwoman Harriet Harman said: “Confusion over what is law and what is merely guidance has left citizens open to disproportionate and unequal levels of punishment for breaking the rules, and unfortunately, it seems that once again, this is overtly affecting BAME individuals.”
“The government must learn from these mistakes to ensure that any additional lockdowns do not unfairly impact specific groups.”
This comes after on the suggestion of a two-week national lockdown, Edward Argar, a minister within the Department of Health and Social Care, has rubbished claims that the Prime Minister is being advised to take the action due to a rise in COVID-19 infections.
In an interview with Sky News, Ms Harman said there “must be an opportunity to appeal or review in the way that you would for a parking fine”.
“Obviously, the government are announcing these fines because they want to throw all of the weight that there is of government behind ensuring that these restrictive measures work. That is the sole objective of it,” she said.
She added that the government feels that it is “necessary to get the message across that everybody must abide by the rules.”
It comes after the UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said to Sky News that the nation is facing a “tipping point” where “more restrictive measures” could soon be brought in to slow down the spread of COVID-19.