Coronavirus lockdown rules: How do I appeal against a police fine?

Police officers across the UK now have powers to arrest or fine people flouting coronavirus lockdown rules.

Forces are being urged to be "consistent" in their approach with officers told that any action should be in line with the legislation, should be proportionate and a last resort.

While the majority of police have been praised for using common sense and taking a sensible approach to the laws, others were accused of being overzealous.

This has prompted questions on how to challenge a fine when a member of the public feels it may have been unfairly issued.

Police at a vehicle checkpoint in York where officers from North Yorkshire Police. Credit: PA

What powers do the police have?

Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 for England, officers can take action if they "reasonably believe" someone is in contravention as long as the decision is "necessary and proportionate".

They can order someone to go home or leave an area, and have the power to disperse a group and remove someone using "reasonable force, if necessary".

Officers can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.

Roads are closed in Richmond Park, southwest London, during the coronavirus lockdown Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Lockdown fines will rise to £100 in England from Wednesday.

The first fine someone receives if police believe they are flouting restrictions on movement amid the coronavirus outbreak will be lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days, according to the Home Office.

Fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

This maximum rose from the previous figure of £960 in May.

The fine is not a criminal conviction but those who do not pay could be taken to court.

You could also be arrested for refusing to provide your name and address to avoid being given a fine.

It is not yet clear if the same changes to fines will be adopted in Wales but Northern Ireland is expected to set its own rules on Tuesday, May 12.

Lockdown fines will remain unchanged in Scotland after the nation’s government found no evidence to suggest an increase was required.

This means people found to be flouting lockdown rules for the first time in Scotland will still be fined £30 by police, rising to £60 if not paid within 28 days. Cumulative fines for repeat offenders will stay capped at £960.

Police have been challenging coronavirus rulebreakers. Credit: PA

How can I appeal the fine?

Firstly, check the paperwork you were given for details of the fine.

Or ask the police force in question for information on what you are said to have done to warrant the fine and under what law the penalty was issued.

According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the process of appeal for coronavirus lockdown fines is similar to that of a penalty notice for disorder (PNDs) or other fines like fixed penalty notices (FPNs).

If the fine is contested, the person receiving the fine can challenge the decision at a magistrates' court.

A hearing would likely take place where a magistrate listens to arguments from both sides as to why the fine was issued and why the person who received it feels it was not justified.

They then decide whether the fine is justified and still stands or should be cancelled.

Coronavirus lockdown - how much can I get fined?

  • £100 for a first offence

  • Reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days

  • Fines double for each repeat offence

  • Costs rise for each further offence to a maximum of £3,200

Police at a vehicle checkpoint in Wales where officers question drivers why they are travelling. Credit: ITV News

What are the pitfalls of challenging a fine?

It is recommended to seek legal advice before challenging a fine – but this could end up costing more than the original penalty.

If someone loses the appeal at court, they will still be liable to pay the fine and could be hit by court costs or ever handed a summary conviction.

The time it could take to contest such a fine is another consideration, lawyers have warned.

Mounted police on patrol in Whitley Bay, Northumberland Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

Currently the majority of courts are closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus and there is already a backlog of cases waiting to be heard.

Magistrates courts are only holding urgent hearings at present.

When courts begin to re-open it is likely other sorts of cases will take precedent so there could be some delay in the hearing taking place.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know