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Police force settles claim brought by nurses over fine for Covid regulation breaches during pay protest

Greater Manchester Police has agreed to settle a claim for compensation brought by two nurses who said the force wrongly handed them a £10,000 fine under Covid regulations for organising a protest in March last year.

The force conceded that it had "misunderstood the effects" of the Covid-19 regulations used to impose the fine on the two nurses, Karen Reissmann and Patricia Gallagher.

Ms Reissmann (61) and Ms Gallagher (65), who worked throughout the pandemic as frontline nurses, organised a protest against the Government's proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers.

The nurses expected around 40 people to attend and planned for it to be a socially distanced protest, with masks and hand sanitisers available.

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However, Ms Reissmann was informed by Greater Manchester police officers that the protest was not permitted under the Covid-19 regulations and could not go ahead. She was then fined £10,000 for organising the protest and was cautioned by a police officer.

The police arrested Ms Gallagher. She was later de-arrested and fined £200 for contravening the Covid-19 regulations.

The pair instructed Bindmans LLP to challenge their fines.

The ensuing legal proceedings led the force to accept that Ms Gallagher's arrest had been unlawful and that the fines were unlawfully imposed. They consequently agreed to withdraw them.

However, the force refused to apologise to Ms Reissmann for the distress caused to her by the £10,000 fine or for the professional embarrassment the criminal sanction caused her. The police also refused to make a "fulsome" apology to Ms Gallagher for her arrest and the impact that this had on her, according to Bindmans.

Emily-Jade Defriend, a solicitor at Bindmans LLP who represented Ms Reissmann and Ms Gallagher, said: "The Covid-19 regulations did not introduce a blanket ban on protest; protest is an important right in a functioning democracy and constituted a 'reasonable excuse' for gatherings."

Ms Defriend added: "Greater Manchester Police got it wrong in imposing criminal sanctions on Ms Reissmann and Ms Gallagher. The gathering that Ms Reissmann organised was not frivolous, it was an important public statement about how NHS workers were being treated beyond the weekly clap. It was a privilege to work with these NHS stalwarts as they stood up for the NHS and the right to protest."

Greater Manchester Police confirmed it had reached a settlement in regard to the fine.

Adam Carey

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