Two women have been fined £200 for driving 5 miles to take a stroll in the park, as police say it’s against COVID restrictions.
Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore drove 5 miles to Foremark Reservoir to take a stroll as part of their daily exercise on Wednesday.
As they arrived, seven police officers “surrounded” the vehicle, causing Ms. Allen to assume “someone had been murdered”, due to the excessive police presence.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, she said: “Straight away they start questioning us. One of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend thinking this must be a joke.”
Ms Allen explained to the officers they were there to take a walk and they “had come in separate cars, parked two spaces away and even brought our own drinks”.
An officer responded by saying: “You can’t do that as it’s classed as a picnic.” The officers issued both women with a £200 fine.
Ms Allen said the experience was “very intimidating” and had left her feeling scared of police in general. “I was so shook up afterwards,” she said. “The fact they read my rights. I thought ‘Am I going to prison for going on a walk?'”
Derbyshire Police insisted the distance was “at the discretion” of individual officers and the trip was “not in the spirit of the rules”.
Guidance for the current lockdown says people can travel for exercise “as long as it is in their local area”, but does not specify how far people can travel.
Eliza Moore said she was “stunned at the time”, so did not challenge the police and gave them her details so they could send a fixed penalty notice.
She added: “We don’t want to get away with it if we have broken the rule, but it seems a bit unfair that you can be fined on something that’s so vague.”
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner said: “There is no law against travelling to exercise. The guidance is not legally binding and the police have no power to enforce it unless it is reflected in the lockdown regulations, which in this case it is not.”
The Police have been criticised on numerous occasions for their approach to enforcing Covid restrictions. This includes forcibly entering houses with children inside, dumping black dye into the famous Blue Lagoon to discourage people posing for photos and spying on walkers in the Peak District with drones, only to release the footage to “shame” them.
In an attempt to clarify the guidance, Leicester City Council’s public health director Professor Ivan Browne today urged residents to visit “your nearest park, not your nicest park”.