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COVID-19: Woman convicted under Coronavirus Act was ‘wrongly charged’

A woman convicted under the new Coronavirus Act is set to be cleared after police admitted she was wrongly charged and apologised.

According to British Transport Police (BTP), officers approached Marie Dinou, 41, at Newcastle railway station and asked her what reasonable excuse she had for being outside her home.

In a press release on Wednesday the force said she refused to engage with them several times and was arrested on suspicion of ticket fraud and breaching new coronavirus restrictions.

The press release said she was later fined £660 for “failing to comply with requirements imposed under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and was also fined £85 for ticket fraud”.

It later emerged she was charged on both counts under the new law, brought in last month to enforce social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The particular section of the Act gives police powers in dealing with “potentially infectious” people.

Now BTP has admitted Dinou, from York, was charged under “the incorrect section” of the Act and will ask Tyneside North Magistrates to set aside the conviction. The force will not pursue a new prosecution.

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The move follows a review of the case by police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

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. Officers were rightfully challenging her unnecessary travel.

“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.

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“We have shared the latest version of guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council this morning with all of our frontline officers 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. 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.

“As a last resort, and where situations develop, we may need to apply the law as set out in the new Coronavirus Act and the Health Protection Regulations.”

The original police handling of the case was condemned by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.


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