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Coronavirus and the rise in criminal activity

Posted by Stephen Bennett

26-03-2020

There is no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak has caused uncertainty for individuals and for businesses. With financial concerns heightened and restrictions on daily living arrangements imposed, many people are feeling anxious and unsettled. Although there has been a drop in offences such as retail burglary and violence from pub fights since the lockdown was imposed, police chiefs are already seeing a rise in criminal activity in other areas.

With more people cooped up at home since the coronavirus outbreak, some without work, it is anticipated that there will be an increase in domestic violence and fraud in particular.

Fraudulent activity

A flood of opportunistic scams have already been seen both online and offline, looking to profit from vulnerable people. A common exploitation offline has been people offering to do someone’s shopping but taking their money and not coming back.

The other area that is being closely monitored is people adjusting their prices to make them severely overpriced or making misleading claims about the efficacy of products such as sanitisers, tests and treatment kits. The Competition & Markets Authority has said it will take action in relation to any inflated pricing or misleading claims which attempts to exploit the current situation.

Domestic Violence

The police are predicting an upsurge in cases of domestic violence as families are placed under increased pressure by the forced lockdown. This together with the likely financial concerns that arise from loss of or reduced income from employment are factors which law enforcement authorities believe will cause a spike in 999 calls to the emergency services.

Given the demands already placed on the police and ambulance authorities at this time it will be a challenge for cases to be investigated and processed. With restrictions on movement and the risks of cross-infection persons at risk may find difficulty in securing alternative accommodation.

On top of all this we have the difficulties faced by the courts in dealing with cases whilst the pandemic continues. Guidance issued suggests that the courts will continue to prioritise cases of domestic violence but it remains to be seen whether this will be possible.

Penalty points disqualification

In recent weeks in the Thames Valley courts there appears to have been an increase in penalty points disqualification cases. Any motorist acquiring 12 or more penalty points in a period of 3 years is subject to mandatory disqualification for a minimum period of 6 months unless the court finds that disqualification would cause ‘exceptional hardship’.

Remember the 3 year period runs from the date of the offence and therefore it is not unusual for the hearing to take place at a time when some points have expired but they will still be relevant for totting purposes.

In usual circumstances clients will want to avoid any disqualification if possible. This is often because loss of a driving licence will mean that they are unable to attend their place of work or perform the functions of their employment because they cannot travel to other locations to see clients etc. In the ‘lockdown’ period we are now living through the situation may be different and our ability to work remotely and without the need to travel will have changed.

It may still be useful to argue ‘exceptional hardship’ as this, if found to exist, allows the court to impose a shorter period than the mandatory six months. The benefit of having a totting disqualification, no matter how long is that at the end of the period of disqualification you will receive your licence back clear of all points even those for the preceding offences.

To run a successful ‘exceptional hardship’ argument requires the motorist to give evidence on oath and the application needs careful preparation.

If you need help with a matter or have been charged with a criminal offence and you need guidance as to how you may be able to deal with your case please contact our criminal specialist below.


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