(PatriotWise.com)- As COVID lockdowns ease and life returns to normal throughout the US, the COVID-related panic is not letting up across the pond in the UK.
A collection of civil liberties groups in the UK are raising significant concerns over the hundreds of people who have been charged and prosecuted under the Health Protection Regulations and the Coronavirus Act 2020.
According to the London Independent, cases are processed under the “Single Justice Procedure” – meaning one magistrate decides a case based solely on evidence provided by law enforcement. Someone accused of violating lockdown restrictions can be ruled guilty without a trial, without a hearing – with no due process whatsoever.
In a letter to the Justice Secretary, the watchdog groups demanded that this process stop – adding that possibly thousands of people have been subjected to this due process-free procedure.
The letter states that these charges and prosecutions lack sufficient oversight or a meaningful review process that is resulting in unfair guilty pleas and convictions – in large part because people are ensnared “in a process they may also not be aware of.”
Thus far, one third of these COVID-related prosecutions in England and Wales have ultimately proved wrongful.
In 2020 alone, 4,400 defendants faced prosecution of which 3,500 were convicted.
By the end of September 2020, more than 1,000 of those cases had been processed through the Single Justice Procedure.
However, analysis indicates that the total number of cases dealt with through the Single Justice Procedure has now climbed to at least 2,000.
Most of the cases in question are thought to be related to unpaid fines. But there is currently no mechanism in place that allows those fine by law enforcement to appeal the fines.
According to human rights attorney Kirsty Brimelow, it is a failure of the justice system that Single Justice Procedure is being allowed to continue specifically in relation to COVID lockdown violations as the “consistent misuse and misunderstanding of the Covid laws is well known.”
The Ministry of Justice, however, says that the use the Single Justice Procedure only applies to “low level, non-imprisonable crimes” – adding that people are able to “request an open hearing”.