A teenager in Oxford was wrongly convicted and sentenced – under coronavirus legislation that only applies to Wales.
Lewis Brown, 18, was arrested by Thames Valley Police after visiting his vulnerable mother to give her money, the Times reported.
But the officers charged him with offences under paragraph 67 of the Coronavirus Act, which only relates to potentially infectious people in Wales.
The teenager pleaded guilty when he appeared at Oxford magistrates’ court on April 20, two days after his arrest. District judge Kamlesh Rana fined him £100 and ordered him to pay £119 in a victim surcharge and costs.
The case was highlighted in a report by Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group, to draw attention to a case in which coronavirus emergency powers have been used incorrectly.
Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, said to the Times: “We have seen police misinterpret the [Coronavirus legislation] and enforce them unnecessarily harshly. This punitive approach has alienated and alarmed members of the public, eroded trust in authorities, sown confusion and undermined the rule of law.”
Kirsty Brimelow QC, who has analysed such cases of wrongful conviction, said: “This seems to be another example of misuse of police powers, wrongful prosecution and unlawful conviction.
“For good measure, not only has the wrong law been used but the wrong law for the wrong country. The section charged and prosecuted relates to Wales. As far as I know, Wales has not expanded during the lockdown to include Oxford.
“It is clear that these cases are not outliers and the director of public prosecutions and district judges need to get a grip on the current trend of casual criminalisation of people.”
Thames Valley Police confirmed they had incorrectly charged Mr Brown and the case would be withdrawn.
A spokesman said: “Our officers are out in our communities protecting the public and the NHS by engaging, explaining, and encouraging members of the public to abide with the government guidance. However, where they have seen non-compliance they have looked to use enforcement.
“We can confirm that in this instance Mr Brown was arrested and incorrectly charged under the Coronavirus Act and was convicted after he pleaded guilty to the offence. The Crown Prosecution Service is currently reviewing this case with a view to it being withdrawn.
“Any new legislation brings its own challenges, especially when operating in such challenging times and our officers and staff will continue to work tirelessly to protect the public by helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”