BAME Groups Disproportionately Hit By COVID-19 Fines
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups in the UK are statistically more likely to receive COVID-19 fines than the white population.
According to joint analysis by Liberty Investigates and The Guardian, 13,445 fixed-penalty notices (FPNs) were issued under social distancing regulations between 27 March and 11 May. Of this number, 2,218 were issued to members of BAME groups, with around 7,865 issued to white groups. The remaining fines went to individuals whose ethnicity was not specified.
Given that BAME groups comprise just 15.5% of England’s population, these figures suggest they are 54% more likely to be fined than white groups.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council publishes fortnightly data that displays the number of fixed-penalty notices issued to each ethnic group. On 15 April, the NPCC described the ethnic breakdown of fines as ‘proportionate’, overlooking the fact that a quarter of fines went to those with unspecified ethnicities.
When those with unspecified ethnicities are removed, BAME groups account for at least 22% of all fines. The Guardian and Liberty’s analysis shows that BAME groups were fined at a rate of 26 per 100,000, with the rate for white people standing at 16.8 per 100,000.
As BAME groups make up just 15.5% of England’s population, these figures suggest they are 54% more likely to be fined than white groups.
This racial disparity has prompted experts and campaigners to question whether the fines have been issued fairly, particularly after the Crown Prosecution Service found that considerable numbers of people have been wrongfully charged and convicted for breaching lockdown laws.
Kevin Blowe, the coordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring had this to say:
“For years there has been extensive evidence that police powers are used to disproportionately and unfairly to target black and Asian communities, so it comes as little surprise that these figures indicate racial profiling has continued and even accelerated under the lockdown.
This was often far more about sending a tough public order message than about genuine disease prevention and has routinely resulted in the arbitrary use of police powers.”
A notable incident of wrongful policing occurred in Fallowfield, Manchester on 11 April. Despite informing police that he was delivering supplies to vulnerable family members, youth worker Gershon Leach received a fixed-penalty notice for contravening lockdown guidelines.
The fine was overturned by Greater Manchester Police the following day, but only after footage of Mr Leach being threatened with pepper spray went viral. It is understood that GMP’s professional standards branch are currently investigating the incident.
This incident occurred not long after the case of Marie Dinou, a black woman from York who was fined £660 by British Transport Police at Newcastle Central Station for refusing to state both her identity and her reasons for travelling.
Despite informing police that he was delivering supplies to vulnerable family members, youth worker Gershon Leach received a fixed-penalty notice for contravening lockdown guidelines.
Ms Dinou was charged for a breach of the Coronavirus Act, but this was revoked days later once it became clear that the legislation did not enable police to prevent public transport journeys.
The parliamentary joint committee for human rights and a coalition of civil society groups have separately demanded an urgent review of FPNs. This is due to confusion surrounding the legal basis on which they are issued.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council had this to say:
“There are a number of complexities in interpreting the data on ethnicity, including the number of FPNs given where an ethnicity has not been recorded.
Therefore, we are further analysing the data so we can publish the most accurate picture. Without this analysis, we are not confident that meaningful conclusions can be drawn on ethnic proportionality.
Our initial analysis supported proportionality in FPNs given in line with ONS [Office for National Statistics] population. Subsequently, we have judged further analysis is required to fully understand the proportionality issue.”