Single Justice Procedure: unlawful Coronavirus prosecutions and convictions behind closed doors
Thousands of people in England and Wales have been convicted of coronavirus offences behind closed doors – and many of these convictions may be unlawful. Fair Trials have published a joint letter alongside Big Brother Watch, Transform Justice, Howard League, APPEAL and Commons Law CIC calling for the suspension of the use of the Single Justice Procedure for Coronavirus related offences.
Hundreds of people have been wrongly charged and prosecuted under the Health Protection Regulations and the Coronavirus Act 2020 and Fair Trials are concerned that many more unlawful charges brought via the Single Justice Procedure remain unchallenged. These charges and prosecutions are being brought without sufficient oversight, without any meaningful review process, and are resulting in guilty pleas and convictions for offences people have not committed, in a process they may also not be aware of. The current situation is unjust and the current process is unfit for purpose.
Coronavirus regulations are a complex area of law and people charged with coronavirus offences therefore need independent legal advice, and these new laws need testing. It is especially concerning that the Single Justice Procedure operates largely without the defendant having access to an independent lawyer. Cheap judicial process now could lead to thousands of pounds of damages in years to come and significant reputational damage to the criminal justice system. Therefore, we are calling for the justice secretary to suspend the use of the Single Justice Procedure for Coronavirus related offences.