Covid fines reviewed after two women 'surrounded' by Derbyshire Police

9 January 2021, 08:59 | Updated: 9 January 2021, 09:06

FPNs are being reviewed by Derbyshire Police following a "bonkers" fine for two walkers
FPNs are being reviewed by Derbyshire Police following a "bonkers" fine for two walkers. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Covid fines are being reviewed by Derbyshire Police after officers "surrounded" two women who were out for a walk at a remote reservoir.

The force said it is looking into all fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued during the current national lockdown now it has received clarification about the Covid-19 regulations.

It comes after officers were branded "bonkers" for their "intimidating" approach when dealing with two women who had arrived at a remote spot in South Derbyshire roughly five miles from their homes.

The pair were handed £200 fines for alleged breaches of lockdown laws, with one reportedly being told a hot drink she had brought with her was not permitted as it was "classed as a picnic".

Derbyshire Police said they could have exercised closer to their homes and described their actions as "clearly not in the spirit of the national effort" to reduce travel and the possible transmission of Covid-19.

However, in a statement on Friday evening, the constabulary said it had been given further guidance from the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), which offered clarity on the matter.

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The advice read: "Covid regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise."

Responding, Derbyshire Police said: "All fixed penalty notices during this relevant period that have been issued will be reviewed for compliance. All recipients will be contacted."

Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet added: "Since the start of the pandemic, Derbyshire Constabulary have been working to understand the ever-changing guidance and legislation and to communicate this to our officers in a way that makes it clear what is the right course of action to take.

"We are grateful for the guidance from the NPCC and our officers will continue to use the 4Es approach and will, of course, encourage people to follow the guidance and, where appropriate, deal with breaches of the regulations.

"The actions of our officers continues to be to protect the public, the NHS and to help save lives."

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One of the women, Jessica Allen, hoping to enjoy a walk at Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday said she thought the actions of the police were "bonkers".

Ms Allen, who lives in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, told the BBC: "As we drove in there was a police van, a police car, and there were loads of police there.

"I genuinely thought someone had been murdered; the place is normally so quiet.

"The next thing, my car is surrounded. I got out of my car thinking 'There's no way they're coming to speak to us'. Straight away they start questioning us.

"I said we had come in separate cars, even parked two spaces away and even brought our own drinks with us. He said 'You can't do that as it's classed as a picnic'."

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Current lockdown guidance tells people to limit exercise - including running, cycling, swimming and walking - to once per day, and says while people can leave their home, they should not travel outside their local area.

Exercising is allowed within a group from the same property or, when on your own, with one person from another household.

Ms Allen added that she is taking the pandemic "very seriously" because her brother is a doctor working on a Covid ward in London, and her parents have both had the virus.

She said she drove to the reservoir as she knew it would be less crowded than near her house.

"I'm self-employed but my business is closed and I'm trying to fill my time," she added.

Her friend, Eliza Moore, said she was so shocked she did not challenge police and gave her details so they could send an FPN.

Derbyshire Police was criticised in March for using drones to film walkers as a deterrent to people visiting the Peak District, and dyeing a "blue lagoon" black in Harpur Hill, Buxton, in the same month.

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