Well, That Escalated Quickly: Fixed Penalties for Lockdown Breaches in England

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Fixed Penalties for Lockdown Breaches in England

BCL Partner John Binns writes about changes in Fixed Penalty notices in England.

From the outset of lockdown regulations in England on 26 March 2020, breaches have been punishable with a fine, and subject to a system of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), by which a prosecution could be avoided if a fixed sum is paid within 28 days, but the sums would increase for repeat offenders.

Initially, those sums were:1

  1. for the first FPN issued, £60, or £30 if paid within 14 days;
  2. for the second, £120;
  3. for the third, £240;
  4. for the fourth, £480; and
  5. for the fifth (and subsequent FPNs), £960.

 

From 13 May 2020, those sums increased to: 2

  1. for the first FPN issued, £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days;
  2. for the second, £200;
  3. for the third, £400;
  4. for the fourth, £800; and
  5. for the fifth. £1,600; and
  6. for the sixth (and subsequent FPNs), £3,200.

 

From 14 October 2020, those sums increased again to:3

  1. for the first FPN issued, £200, or £100 if paid within 14 days;
  2. for the second, £400;
  3. for the third, £800;
  4. for the fourth, £1,600; and
  5. for the fifth, £3,200; and
  6. for the sixth (and subsequent FPNs), £6,400.

Importantly, the sum that applies for each breach is the one that was in force at that time, not at the time of the FPN, but the effect of the escalating sums should not be underestimated. Someone receiving six FPNs for breaches occurring on or after 14 October 2020, for example, would have to pay £12,600 to avoid a prosecution (£12,500 if they paid promptly). With those stakes, some may prefer to take their chances in the magistrates’ courts, which may acquit them, or (exercising discretion unavailable to the police under FPNs, taking personal circumstances and mitigation into account) impose a smaller fine.

John Binns is a partner at BCL specialising in all aspects of business crime, with a particular interest in confiscation, civil recovery and money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”). His business crime experience includes representing suspects, defendants and witnesses in cases invoking allegations of bribery and corruption, fraud (including carbon credits, carousel/MTIC, land-banking, Ponzi and pyramid scheme frauds), insider trading, market abuse, price-fixing, sanctions-busting, and tax evasion. He has coordinated and undertaken corporate investigations and defended in cases brought by BEIS, the FCA, HMRC, NCA, OFT, SFO and others.

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