Three convicted for Covid rule breaches
Three people were convicted and two fined for breaching coronavirus laws in the Cleveland Police area last year, new figures show.
Ministry of Justice data show there were three court prosecutions in the force area for breaches of restrictions introduced at the beginning of the pandemic.
This resulted in all being convicted – leading to two being fined a total of £120 by the courts.
Both convictions were for breaches of emergency restrictions.
Nationally 4,365 prosecutions resulted in 3,535 convictions – 81%- and £1.3m in fines were issued.
The figures come amid criticism of the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions, in particular the use of a fast-track system which sees cases dealt with by a legal adviser and a single magistrate out of court.
This process, known as the single justice procedure, is aimed at reducing paperwork and freeing up court time.
Griff Ferris, legal and policy officer at Fair Trials, a criminal justice watchdog, said it was unjust for people to be criminalised and fined by an "opaque and unchecked process behind closed doors”.
He said: “The single justice procedure is rushed justice, on the cheap, and it is completely inappropriate for assessing charges under confusing lockdown laws.”
An MoJ spokesperson said the decision to use the single justice procedure lay with the prosecutor.
A spokesperson said: "The single justice procedure allows those who plead guilty to low-level, non-imprisonable crimes to resolve their case without going to court – not more serious offences.
"All defendants can request an open hearing and have their conviction reheard if necessary."