Derby

Coronavirus: Lord Sumption brands Derbyshire Police 'disgraceful'

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 former Supreme Court judge has likened Derbyshire Police's approach to the restrictions on public movement to "a police state".

Lord Sumption told Radio 4's World At One the use of drones to film walkers in the Peak District was "disgraceful" and "shamed our policing traditions".

The force was criticised after posting some of the footage on social media last week.

A spokesman said "much smaller numbers" visited beauty spots this weekend.

Derbyshire Police deployed drones to monitor areas of the Peak District National Park after public outrage when crowds defied government advice to stay indoors.

The force said the advice it issued to the public following the overcrowding "was in line with national government advice and echoed what people in our communities were saying".

However, Lord Sumption said the efforts to dissuade people from "travelling to take exercise in the open country" were excessive.

He argued that such behaviours "are not contrary to the regulations simply because ministers have said that they would prefer us not to".

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Lord Sumption was a Supreme Court justice from 2012 to 2018

Lord Sumption continued: "The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform, they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government's command."

"The police have no power to enforce ministers' preferences but only legal regulations which don't go anything like as far as the government's guidance," he said.

"I have to say that the behaviour of Derbyshire Police in trying to shame people into using their undoubted right to travel to take exercise in the country and wrecking beauty spots in the fells so people don't want to go there is frankly disgraceful.

"This is what a police state is like. It's a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers' wishes.

"I have to say that most police forces have behaved in a thoroughly sensible and moderate fashion. Derbyshire Police have shamed our policing traditions."

Responding to criticism of the dyeing of the water at the Blue Lagoon near Buxton, Derbyshire Police pointed out the "tactic" has been deployed since 2013, adding it has received "high levels of local public support".

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