Derby

Coronavirus: Peak District drone police criticised for 'lockdown shaming'

Busy car park Image copyright Derbyshire Police
Image caption Derbyshire Police said vehicles should not have been in a car park in Curbar Edge

A force that released drone footage of people walking in the Peak District has been accused of "nanny policing".

Derbyshire Police filmed people in pairs rambling in the Curbar Edge area of the beauty spot on Wednesday.

Officers said travelling to remote areas for exercise did not count as "essential travel" as permitted under government lockdown rules.

UK civil liberties group Big Brother Watch branded the move "sinister" and "counter-productive".

The 90-second clip, shot by the force's drone unit, showed people walking their dogs and taking photos.

It said "the message is still not getting through" about stopping the spread of coronavirus, despite government guidance and several police posts.

One Twitter user called it "the worst kind of nanny policing" while others pointed out that the walkers were away from crowds.

Former justice secretary David Gauke described it as "badly misjudged" and pointed out the people in the footage were maintaining a social distance.

In a series of tweets, the force said some cars parked in the area were registered in Sheffield, suggesting people had travelled to Derbyshire and ignored government advice to exercise close to home.

But privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch said filming members of the public and publishing footage online was "sinister, let alone counter-productive".

A spokesman added: "The new regulations in place as of yesterday do not prohibit driving to a place for the purpose of exercise."

Since then, the government has clarified its advice over daily exercise, saying people should "stay local" and not travel unnecessarily for exercise.

Supt Steve Pont, of Derbyshire Police, told the BBC's Today programme: "We wanted to reinforce the message of stay home and a number of people aren't staying home, they're finding excuses or loopholes - and we just wanted to illustrate that this is the wrong thing to do."

He said officers are "here to apply the law that the government makes", adding: "The point is that the government legislation said if you go out to take exercise, you should make your time away from home as short as possible, it didn't say as short as possible unless you want to go for a drive in the Peak District."

In a statement, a force spokesman added: "Our actions and the government's advice are there to keep you and others safe and ensure our NHS is able to cope in order to save as many lives as possible."

On Thursday, Derbyshire Police also broke up a large group near the Snake Pass enjoying a picnic and shisha.

Officers said those who attended had come from Manchester, Sheffield and Ipswich and added: "Seriously this is not social distancing and staying home."

Image copyright Derbyshire Police
Image caption Derbyshire Police found a group near Snake Pass enjoying a picnic and shisha

At the weekend the Peak District National Park urged people to stay home after it said crowds flocked to the Peaks.

The Home Office has now announced new powers for police to arrest anyone flouting the coronavirus lockdown rules.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said anyone ignoring restrictions could be fined £60 and another £120 for a second offence.

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