Coronavirus: Derbyshire Police admits force can't stop walkers

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Peak DistrictImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Peter Goodman said Lord Sumption is "right that there is no power to stop people going walking in the country"

A police force criticised for filming Peak District hikers with a drone has admitted it is powerless to stop people from going walking in the countryside.

Derbyshire Police was accused of "shaming" those who headed to the beauty spot amid a UK-wide lockdown.

Former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption branded it "disgraceful", arguing officers had no power to "to enforce ministers' preferences".

Chief constable Peter Goodman has since admitted Lord Sumption was correct.

Mr Goodman said it was "right that there is no power to stop people going walking in the country".

The weekend before the force published drone footage on social media, Mr Goodman said, "the Peak District was inundated with visitors in spite of concerns about the Covid virus".

Speaking on Radio 2, he said he agreed with Lord Sumption that "the separation of state from policing is really important in a democratic society".

But, he said: "I think there's a misinterpretation by him about what's going on.

"We had many, many members of the Derbyshire community contacting the police very concerned because villages that are largely filled by elderly residents who were self-isolating were inundated by thousands of visitors parking and walking around their villages."

Image source, Derbyshire Police
Image caption,
Mr Goodman said police are in a "difficult position" in dealing with the public while helping efforts to minimise the coronavirus outbreak

The force was also criticised by the ex-judge for "wrecking beauty spots", in reference to police dyeing the water at the Blue Lagoon near Buxton.

In response, Mr Goodman said this was an annual practice that had been going on "for more than seven years" and was "nothing to do with the virus".

"Because people look at it from a distance and they think it's going to be a great place to swim. It's extremely dangerous."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Buxton's Blue Lagoon is often dyed to a more off-putting black to deter people

New guidance was issued to police on Thursday when officers were given powers to fine people who gather in groups or refuse to return home.

Mr Goodman told BBC Radio 5 Live his officers "never expected to be asked by the government to play the role that we're playing", and that he wanted them to use "explanation and conversation" to ensure the public were adhering to guidelines on social distancing when exercising.

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