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CPS review findings for first year of coronavirus prosecutions


The CPS has now reviewed a full year’s worth of cases charged under the coronavirus legislation, as part of our commitment to ensuring the laws are being applied consistently and correctly.

Prosecutors checked 1,821 finalised cases under the Coronavirus Act and Health Protection Regulations between 26 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

A total of 549 incorrect charges were identified, which were either withdrawn by prosecutors at the first court hearing or returned to the relevant CPS area to be set aside.

The CPS Compliance and Assurance Team has been reviewing completed coronavirus cases on a monthly basis since last spring to make they are being correctly charged.

Gregor McGill, CPS Director of Legal Services, said: “Prosecutors have now reviewed almost 2,000 coronavirus cases charged in the first 12 months of the pandemic, providing an invaluable public service at a time of national emergency.

“All of us in the criminal justice system have had to adapt at great speed to this fast-moving situation, with every effort made to strike a proportionate balance between protecting public safety and the interests of justice.

“The CPS has said throughout that coronavirus rule breaches should be treated as serious given the public health risks and many of these prosecutions were brought against people accused of wider offending. However, it is right that any errors are rectified as part of this review.

“We will continue to work closely with police colleagues and other partners to ensure a consistent interpretation of these laws for as long as they remain in place.”

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations

The Regulations contain various criminal offences, which over the course of the pandemic have covered numerous restrictions – including on leaving home, social gatherings, self-isolation, travel and the wearing of face coverings.

Of 1,551 prosecutions brought under the Regulations in the first year, 82 per cent (1,272) were correctly charged.

Errors have typically involved wrong iterations of the rules, which have changed frequently, being used. Some cases were also discontinued due to insufficient evidence.

Coronavirus Act

The main criminal offence under the Coronavirus Act relates to potentially infectious persons who refuse to co-operate with the police or public health officers, when they are required to be screened for Covid-19.

No case of a potentially infectious person refusing to comply with a lawful instruction has yet been prosecuted, which is why all 270 charges under this legislation have been incorrect.

Cumulative review findings

The table below contains March’s review findings and a new cumulative total for all cases since March 2020.

As summary-only offences, the vast majority of cases were charged by police. Two-thirds were charged alongside substantive offences such as assaults, theft and criminal damage.

Number of cases finalised (March 2021)No. of cases incorrectly charged (March 2021)Total no of cases incorrectly charged (since March 2020)
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations: 205 casesWithdrawn50Withdrawn218
Returned to CPS local Areas15Returned to CPS local Areas48
Not guilty0Not guilty2
Coronavirus Act: 17 casesWithdrawn14Withdrawn222
Returned to CPS local Areas3Returned to CPS local Areas43

Notes to editors

  • The CPS is manually reviewing all finalised prosecutions -  i.e. where the case has been sentenced or proceedings stopped - for all cases under the Coronavirus Act and every case where a defendant has pleaded not guilty under the Regulations.
  • The CPS management information is derived from the CPS case management system, and as with any large-scale recording system, data is subject to possible errors in entry and processing. The figures are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded and quality assured by the CPS. This means that cumulative figures may not always match the sum of historic monthly published figures.
  • Our data covers the number of offences rather than individual defendants. Official criminal justice outcome statistics are kept by the Ministry of Justice.

Further reading

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