Most of the people wrongly charged under the Coronavirus Act were probably not legally represented, the director of public prosecutions has said.

Max Hill QC told the House of Commons justice select committee today that 44 cases were incorrectly charged under the act, of which 31 were noted and stopped at the first hearing. Hill said 13 had to be relisted, while 11 were substituted with offences under Covid-19 regulations. Bob Neill, chair of the committee, asked how many of the 44 people wrongly charged under the act were represented. Hill said: ‘I suspect it was a low number. In the main, these are production cases – individuals remanded overnight by police, brought to court the next day, a very quick process. In court, yes, there is a prosecutor. In some cases, the imperfection in charge has not been noted. If there were any defence representation, the error has not been noted by them.

‘I’m not seeking to cast aspersions on the defence community because I think the vast majority were not represented. In some of those cases [there] were guilty pleas and sentences were imposed. The error wasn’t spotted by the court either. We have collective responsibility for this. If any were represented, there was a good opportunity to have a look and maybe that opportunity was missed. But I think the vast majority were not represented.’

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