TWO women have told how they were “surrounded by cops” and fined £200 each for driving five miles to go on a walk in the park.
Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore were also told the drinks they had with them – two peppermint teas from Starbucks – were were classed “as a picnic.”
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Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore were fined £200 each for driving five miles for a walk in Derbyshire Credit: EUGENE HENDERSON
The pair said they were “surrounded by police” and read their rights when they arrived at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire, just five miles from Ms Allen’s home in Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
The police force involved, Derbyshire Police, said driving for exercise was “not in the spirit” of lockdown.
Current rules state you can leave your home to exercise by yourself, with your household/bubble or on your own with one other person.
This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
Ms Allen said: “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. One of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend and thinking ‘this must be a joke.’
“I said we had come in separate cars, even parked two spaces apart and even brought our own drinks. He said ‘you can’t do that as its classed as a picnic.’”
Ms Allen said she was shaken up afterwards, adding: “The fact they read my rights. I thought ‘Am I going to prison for going on a walk?’
“I’m not a criminal but we were treated as if we were criminals and it really made me feel for those people who are wrongly arrested and questioned by police, because it wasn’t a nice situation to be in.”
Jessica Allen thought the police must have been joking at firstCredit: EUGENE HENDERSON
Eliza Moore said she was ‘stunned’ as cops ‘surrounded’ her and her friendCredit: EUGENE HENDERSON
Ms Allen’s friend, Eliza 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.
“Just seeing a police officer anyway is quite scary for some people and we were really not expecting to be approached and to be told we were doing something wrong,” she said.
“We don’t want to get away with it if we have broken the rule, but it seems a bit unfair that you can be fined on something that’s so vague.”
Jessica, whose brother works as a doctor on a Covid ward in London, said she takes the pandemic very seriously.
She said she drove to the reservoir as she knew it would be less crowded than near her house.
They were backed by human rights barrister Adam Wagner who said “There is no law about travelling to exercise. The guidance is not legally binding and the police have no power to enforce it unless its reflected in the lock down regulations which in this case it is not.”
In a statement, Derbyshire police said: “The current guidance states that while you are able to exercise you should do so locally – defined as being within your village, town or city area.
“We of course understand that there may be valid reasons for travelling outside of these areas for exercise, however, driving to a location – where exercise could easily have been taken closer to a person’s home – 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.”
They added that each officer will “use their professional judgement on a case-by-case basis”.
Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said he considered the reservoir as a local area.
He tweeted: “I’m concerned that my constituents are facing fines from Derbyshire Police for taking exercise in what I would class as the local area.
“It is important that common sense is used when enforcing guidelines, and a fine rather than issuing guidance appears to be rather over zealous.”
It comes after Derbyshire Police tipped gallons of black dye into a local blue lagoon to stop Instagrammers posing for snaps during the first Covid lockdown.
The force was also accused of being “over-zealous” for hunt down rule breakers with drones in March last year.