Almost a third of Covid fines dropped after suspects failed to pay in West Yorkshire

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More than two thirds of fines issued to people breaking lockdown rules in West Yorkshire were not paid according to figures released under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Figures issued by West Yorkshire Police show that a total of 745 fines were issued by the force to Covid rule breakers between April 29 and October 5 2020.

Of those, 231 were paid up (31%), and 18 were contested.

Out of the unpaid fines, a total of 242 have been rescinded (ie cancelled) after payment was not made and the cases were reviewed, which means 32% of fines given out were later dropped.

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Police have issued more than 740 fines in West YorkshirePolice have issued more than 740 fines in West Yorkshire
Police have issued more than 740 fines in West Yorkshire

Another 286 cases (38%) were referred to court instead of being dropped.

A total of 12 fines were issued for holding a gathering of more than 30 people, while five further fines were issued during the local lockdown period between March and October 12.

The Freedom of Information Act document shows the process by which fines are reviewed and then either dropped or referred on to court.

ACRO Criminal Records Office is a national police unit working for safer communities and it is this body which reviews cases which are unpaid, according to the FOI release.

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It says that a case being dropped does not prove that someone didn't break the law, just that it is not always in the best public interest to continue a prosecution.

It states: "All unpaid or contested fines referred back to Force from ACRO have been subject to review to decide whether they should be progressed further, to a non-compliance letter and then ultimately progressed to court.

"This review considers whether there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt at court that the offence had been committed.

"It also considers whether the 4E’s (engage, explain, encourage, enforce) were properly followed, to give the person an opportunity to receive an appropriate warning before enforcement action was taken.

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"So even though we believe we can prove someone broke the law, we may still decide it is not in the public interest to prosecute them and add further pressure to the Criminal Justice system."

Is Leeds likely to go back into Tier 3?The national lockdown 2 is due to end on December 2 and at the time the government announced the lockdown, ministers said that the local lockdowns would resume after the national lockdown period.

That would mean that Tier 3 lockdown - as Leeds was intended to be placed into before the national lockdown began - would be brought in for Leeds.

When the national lockdown was announced, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the local lockdown system would be brought back after the local lockdown, adding: "We will continue to adopt a pragmatic and local approach in the months ahead."

But there is a suggestion that the Tier system could be changed - more on that here.