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Disproportionality in use of coronavirus fines against BAME people

09 June 2020
Disproportionality in use of coronavirus fines against BAME people

In order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus, emergency Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations were brought in at the end of March. They police wide-ranging powers to enforce social distancing and the closure of certain premises. Distinct regulations were made for England and Wales respectively. Each set of regulations have now been amended three times. More information can be found here.

Enforcement of the regulations is permitted through the use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) given by police, as well as the option to prosecute in magistrates’ court.  Given the speed at which the regulations were introduced, and the time taken to provide clear guidance for police and CPS, there have been concerns about the use of FPNs as well as prosecutions. In response to errors that attracted media attention, the CPS committed to a review of FPNs and prosecutions, which highlighted significant problems (see here).

Additional concerns were raised about possible disproportionality to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people by the MA (here and here) as well as others, including Katrina Ffrench, CEO of Stopwatch, who said, “We know which ethnic groups tend to come into contact with the police, and so we were concerned about the disproportionate impact the fines could have on people of colour.”

Research led by Liberty Investigates and the Guardian has now shown these fears to be borne out. They analysed data produced by the National Police Chiefs Council, and found that BAME were 54% more likely than white people to be given a FPN. You can find further breakdown of the data here. The Guardian also published further details here.

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