The UK government’s threat of a 10-year jail term for those who lie about their travel history in violation of COVID-19 travel rules has been met with widespread criticism, including from the ranks of the ruling Conservative Party.
The government will be “coming down hard” on people who provide false information on the passenger locator form, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday in Parliament.
“Anyone who lies on a passenger locator form, and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on our red list in the 10 days before arrival here, will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years,” he said.
This announcement triggered immediate condemnation from Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK.
“This is out of control. 10 years in prison for a lie goes too far, we must resist this tyranny,” he wrote on Twitter.
Lord Sumption, a former Supreme Court judge, also questioned the severity of the proposed sentence.
“Ten years is the maximum sentence for threats to kill, non-fatal poisoning or indecent assault,” he wrote in The Telegraph on Wednesday.
“Does Mr Hancock really think that non-disclosure of a visit to Portugal is worse than the large number of violent firearms offences or sexual offences involving minors, for which the maximum is seven years?”
Hancock’s announcement also drew fire from Conservative lawmakers who are sceptical about lockdown measures introduced to stem the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
Mark Harper, leader of the COVID Recovery Group of Tory lawmakers, told The Times that he was concerned whether the 10-year sentence was appropriate and warned it could not be introduced without a vote in Parliament.
Former Tory MP and ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve said the 10-year penalty was “exaggerated” and “not going to happen.”
“The reality is that nobody would get such a sentence anyway, the courts are simply not going to impose it,” he told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the proposed penalties by stressing that “the British public would expect pretty strong action” to prevent new variants of the CCP virus from entering the country.
“You would have to be very much going out of your way to evade and avoid the system and lie and cheat” to get the maximum penalty of 10 years, he told BBC “Breakfast”.