NYP COVID Fines Fraudulent?
A Letter to the Editor from HEINRIK PORZEL, offering an alternative perspective on breaches of the COVID-19 Regulations, in response to TIM HICKS’ recent article “The Roseberry Topping Controversy”.
I was interested in Tim Hicks’ article on the present Covid restrictions. However, he appears to have missed the point that the reader quoted in his article was making.
The regulations comprise both legal requirements and advice. The former can be enforced by those entitled to enforce the law. The latter cannot.
The guidance to avoid travel from Tier 3 areas into Tier 2 areas is advice. It is not enforceable. As is clearly explained in the BBC article (which had no doubt been checked by its lawyers):
“While travel between tiers in England for journeys other than those deemed essential is not advised, it is not against the law, according to government guidelines“
The Government website covering Tier 3 restrictions (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-3-very-high-alert) clearly distinguishes between “must” and “should”. A breach of those items described as “must” are enforceable with fines. Those described as “should” are guidance and are not enforceable. The travel restrictions are only guidance.
This distinction is clearly a deliberate one made by the Government. If the Government had wanted the travel guidance to be the law the Government had the power to make it law. It must have been a specific decision not to do so. This distinction isn’t trivial.
But it appears North Yorkshire Police have decided differently, or at least used the threat of doing so.
Your reader was totally correct to highlight this.
Tim Hicks states:
“I am unaware of any cases where anyone who is genuinely exercising and has crossed the border has been arrested or prosecuted. So it seems to me that the police are interpreting the rules in a sensible and tolerant way in terms of the concerns our correspondent has raised.”
It is not the role of North Yorkshire Police to arrest or prosecute actions which breach no law. And it is misguided for Tim Hicks to suggest North Yorkshire Police are letting people off by concession when they have broken no law.
That is totally unacceptable in a democratically governed country.
Are there so few real offences in North Yorkshire that the police can incur the cost and time of patrolling the border to threaten those who are committing no offence?
The arrogant approach of North Yorkshire Police, if correctly reported, undermines the rule of law. This is not a trivial issue.
Which leads on to the quoted comments of Supt Mike Walker of North Yorkshire Police:
“Those living in tier three areas are advised not to travel out of the area unless it is necessary, such as for work or education. I realise there may be some confusion over what is deemed necessary in these circumstances, so I’d like to be clear here; it is neither necessary or acceptable to leave a tier three area and enter a lower tier area for a day trip or to visit a pub or restaurant for a meal.“
The first sentence is unobjectionable. The second sentence is threatening and implies it is a police decision on what is necessary.
The statement by Supt Mike Walker clearly includes someone from Tier 3 who decides to drive to the North York Moors for a day’s walking over the moors. Or even to Sandsend for a walk on the beach to take the sea air.
I’d also like to draw the attention of readers to this news report (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-55227317) which includes at the end:
“The force said it also handed out three fixed penalty notices over the weekend to people who visited Whitby from the Cleveland area, breaching their tier three restrictions.“
On what legal basis were these Fixed Penalty Notices issued? What law was being broken by visitors to Whitby who had travelled from Cleveland? Unless the penalty notices were for some offence other than simply a visit to Whitby.
It isn’t the role of North Yorkshire Police to treat as an offence something which isn’t an offence, and issue threats and fines for a breach of something which isn’t the law.
It appears to me anyone paying such a fine has been cheated. Could that be a fraud committed by North Yorkshire Police?