British Transport Police has admitted wrongly charging a woman who was fined under new coronavirus legislation.
Following a joint review with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the British Transport Police (BTP) said Marie Dinou had been charged under the incorrect section of the Coronavirus Act.
She had been fined £660 by magistrates for breaching coronavirus restrictions after she refused to tell police why she was at Newcastle Central Station last weekend.
“There will be understandable concern that our interpretation of this new legislation has resulted in an ineffective prosecution,” said British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock in a statement.
“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.” He added officers were “rightfully challenging her unnecessary travel.”
Police have faced criticism for overzealous enforcement of new legislation. The Association of Convenience Stores said local police authorities could be “interpreting rules in their own way and coming up with incorrect approaches” after shoppers were questioned over whether products, such as Easter eggs, are essential items.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps admitted that some police officers have gone too far in enforcing the coronavirus lockdown. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has now sent a letter to every police force in the nation urging them to adopt a “consistent” approach and to have an “inquisitive, questioning mindset”.
Hanstock added: “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.”
BTP said it had agreed to contact North Tyneside Magistrates’ court and ask for the case to be relisted and the conviction be set aside. It will not pursue any alternative prosecution.