Covid: Fines reviewed after women 'surrounded by police'

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Image source, Jessica Allen
Image caption,
Jessica Allen (left) and Eliza Moore are now sticking to walks nearer their homes

A police force that was criticised for its "intimidating" approach to two walkers is to review its lockdown fines policy.

Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore said they were surrounded by police after driving five miles from their home for a walk on Wednesday, and fined £200 each.

Derbyshire Police initially said driving to exercise was "not in the spirit" of lockdown.

But it now says new national guidelines mean it will review its position.

In a statement, the force said all of its fixed penalties issued during the new national lockdown will be reviewed.

'A picnic'

Ms Allen, from Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, said she assumed "someone had been murdered" when she arrived at Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday afternoon.

When she and her friend were questioned by police, they were also told by officers the hot drinks they had brought along were not allowed as they were "classed as a picnic".

She said: "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'."

Ms Allen said the experience was "very intimidating" and had left her feeling scared of police in general.

Image source, Stuart Woodman
Image caption,
Foremark Reservoir is five miles away from where Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore live

Her friend, Ms Moore, said she was "stunned at the time" so did not challenge police and gave her details so they could send a fixed penalty notice.

At the time Derbyshire Police said that driving to a location to exercise "is clearly not in the spirit of the national effort to reduce our travel, reduce the possible spread of the disease and reduce the number of deaths".

The force added: "Where there are cases of blatant breaches of the regulations then fines will be issued by officers."

Derbyshire Police has also been giving fixed penalty notices to people who visit Calke Abbey and Elvaston Castle.

Image source, Stuart Woodman
Image caption,
Fixed penalty notices have been given to people who visit Calke Abbey, a National Trust property

But in a statement, the force said further guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) had "clarified the policing response concerning travel and exercise".

The guidance said: "The Covid regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs [fixed penalty notices] for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise."

The NPCC added that rather than issue fines for people who travel out of their local area "but are not breaching regulations, officers will encourage people to follow the guidance".

The force has now said it will be "aligning to adhere to this stance".

Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet said: "We are grateful for the guidance from the NPCC.

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

It is not the first time the force has been accused of being overzealous in enforcing alleged lockdown breaches.

In the country's first lockdown in March the use of a drone to film people walking in the Peak District was labelled "nanny policing".

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