TRANSPORT police have been accused of using the wrong law to prosecute a woman from York who was fined £660 in the first arrest on the railways under the lockdown.

As The Press reported yesterday, Marie Dinou, 41, of Oak Tree Close, York, was arrested and fined after failing to tell police why she was at Newcastle Central station on Saturday morning. 

She was found "loitering between platforms" at Newcastle Central Station at around 8am on Saturday as she apparently tried to travel, British Transport Police (BTP) said.

She would not explain to police why she needed to travel or give her name, and was arrested on suspicion of breaking restrictions imposed under the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Dinou appeared at North Tyneside Magistrates' Court on Monday and was fined £660 for breaching the pandemic rules, a member of court staff said.

She was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £66, and costs of £85.

British Transport Police said their officers were called to investigate a person behaving suspiciously in the station, who rail staff suspected had been attempting to fare evade, which is an offence for which they were charged with under the Railways Act.

But on Twitter, Kirsty Brimelow QC, a London-based human rights and crime lawyer said: "I was asked by The Times to look at the first prosecution (& conviction) of a person being outside their home without reasonable excuse. It is a mess. She was prosecuted under the Coronavirus Act Sch 21. She committed no offence under this Act."

Guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says that under the regulations, officers have no power to “stop and account”, or compel someone to explain themselves.

The apparent mix-up was criticised by Ms Brimelow, QC, the first chairwoman of the Bar Human Rights Committee, who said: “Powers under the Coronavirus Act [do not] relate to a direction to provide identity or reason for a journey. So it seems that she has been prosecuted and convicted for an offence which does not exist under this act. She has an option of appeal.”

A BTP spokesperson said: “Regarding the charge under the new legislation, we’re investigating the case including speaking with our partners in the Crown Prosecution Service. We’re keen to remind the public that our approach is always policing the current restrictions through engagement, ensuring that we encourage and explain to members for the public. Enforcement, as in this case, is always a last resort.”