Worn-out members of the public exhausted from strict coronavirus lockdown restrictions are finding ways to break the rules – as police were accused of going after individuals rather than crowds.
Some police forces have found themselves under fire under their enforcement of guidelines.
Friends Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, both 27, were hit with a £200 fine after walking five miles from their home with a cup of tea was classed as picnic.
But hundred-strong crowds lining the streets of Crosby for local team Marine AFC’s FA Cup tie with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday saw no punishment metered out.
It came as:
- A visitor was fined after being found eating a kebab in his car at Cheddar Gorge
- One pub landlord was spoken to after giving a pint to a delivery man
- Police stopped one woman driving to Wales from Staffordshire for a beach trip
- One pretty Gateshead village was ‘invaded’ by non-locals going for walks
- Rush hour traffic in lockdown London reached the highest level so far
Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, both 27, claimed officers were looking for a way to fine them
Crowds of football fans in Crosby before the Spurs vs Marine clash were not fined
In Gateshead hundreds of extra visitors flocked to the area to go for walks unhindered
Members of the public questioned why officers appeared to be hitting individuals harder than some groups.
Gary Blackburn said: ‘If they want people to completely lockdown they should say it rather than hiding behind leaks and the police.
‘Arresting or fining easy targets for having walks with a coffee etc is pathetic.’
Another added: ‘The problem is that we no longer feel the police are on our side
‘The different policing of the BLM marches & the anti lockdown ones have shown us two tier policing is happening
‘Police seem to be going after easy targets. Like bullies do.’
Hardyal Dhindsa, Police and Crime Commissioner of Derbyshire Police, admitted officers ‘may get it wrong’ when handing out fines to lockdown rule-breakers and that a recent incident in the county could have been dealt with differently.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said officers had a ‘very difficult job in really trying circumstances’, with the ‘ever-changing’ Covid-19 restrictions.
He said: ‘It’s no wonder that in circumstances like this, sometimes when they are trying to do the best job they can they may get it wrong.’
When asked whether it was wrong, he said: ‘Having looked at it, listening to what I know, it looks as if that we might’ve have been able to deal with it differently.
Colin Robinson, the landlord of the Chestnut Tree Inn pub in Worcester, was visited by police
Mr Robinson said he had given a pint to a delivery man and then visited by officers
What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for going outside? And can police force their way into your house if they suspect rules are being broken?
Under the rules in England, you must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law.
The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:
- Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
- Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
- Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
- Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend.
- Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
- Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, and not outside your local area. The Government advises you should only leave for exercise once a day, but the law does not put a limit on this.
- Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).
- You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
- Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.
There are further reasonable excuses.
For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.
In Scotland, coronavirus legislation gives police the power to force entry into people’s homes if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ rules are being broken.
However, in England, they can only enter in ‘exceptional circumstances’, which includes if they believe someone inside is infectious.
Otherwise, they will require a warrant.
‘But it’s an operational matter, I’ve asked the chief constable to review these cases and if the police acted in error, then the fines can be rescinded by them.’
He said if an error was found to be made then the police force ‘was big enough’ to apologise.
‘In the main, when police are engaging with the public, the public are very compliant and are following guidance.
‘If you think of the hundreds and thousands of calls to police on Covid-19, the number of fixed penalty notices given out are small.
‘The problem is how are the lockdown rules and regulations in place, and the review of them is something that needs to be looked at.
‘This lockdown is not the same as the lockdown that happened in March.
‘If you look at traffic on our roads it’s still quite high, because people are still going to work.
‘The activity on your roads and in our spaces is much more than the lockdown we had in March.’
Paul Netherton, Deputy Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said people are getting ‘fed up’ of lockdown restrictions and compliance from the public has dipped.
‘What’s happening is people are beginning to flout the rules, they are beginning to think ‘how can I get away with the rules?’,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
When asked whether it was harder to get people to comply with rules in the current lockdown compared to previous ones, he said: ‘Yes, I think people are beginning to get fed up with it.
‘I can understand that but we have to be firm, we have to save lives, we have to make sure people are keeping apart, isolating and staying at home.’
Ms Allen and Ms Moore said today on This Morning they had no idea they had been doing anything wrong.
Their fine, which is being reviewed, has not been sent to them yet after the furore.
Eliza said of the police when they approached them to ask questions: ‘I think ultimately their goal was to issue us with a fine. They were looking to find information that they could justify that we had broken the rules.’
Jessica continued: ‘Once they’d done the questioning, they went on to read us our rights which as two people who are law abiding citizens it’s something that you absolutely fear, I’ve never wanted to be on the wrong side of the law. They read our rights and said that anything that we do say will be held in evidence and would later be relied upon at court. And I just remember looking at Eliza thinking, ‘How has this happened?’
Meanwhile a pub landlord who hands out free meals to homeless people was visited by the authorities after giving out a free pint in the latest example of heavy enforcement in the national lockdown.
Colin Robinson, the landlord of the Chestnut Tree Inn pub in Lansdowne Road, said police were called to the pub and officers took down his name before leaving.
He told Worcester News: ‘Yes, we had two people in here. One person was delivering a barrel of beer, one was doing some music in the recording studio. I gave the guy a pint because he brought back a barrel which he owed me, and the other was upstairs with the music system.’
In Gateshead a village was deluged with visitors going for a walk at picturesque Chopwell Wood.
The roads were packed with cars despite the guidelines telling people to stay local.
Local Steph Davies Morely said: ‘So selfish and saddening! As someone who is shielding I’m honestly heartbroken to see this.’
In Wales a woman was caught flouting coronavirus rules after travelling almost 70 miles from Staffordshire to north Wales to ‘go to the beach’.
Police initially stopped the woman in Prestatyn after her ‘manner of driving’ caught the attention of officers.
She had travelled around 67 miles from Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire.
After talking to the driver, cops say they discovered she did not have a full driving licence, and was driving without insurance.
The vehicle was seized, and officers reported the driver for three offences including driving without a full licence, driving without insurance, and breaching Covid-19 regulations.
North Wales Police said: ‘This vehicle came to our attention due to the manner of driving.
‘Vehicle had travelled from Newcastle-under-Lyme to Prestatyn because the driver wanted to go to the beach.
Chopwell Wood in Gateshead was attended by numerous visitors over the weekend
Local Steph Davies Morely described the deluge as ‘selfish and saddening’ online
‘Also transpired she had no insurance and only a provisional licence. Vehicle seized and reported for three offences.’
And a visitor was also fined after being found eating a kebab at one of the South West’s most stunning beauty spots.
Avon and Somerset Police officers were on patrol at Cheddar Gorge at the weekend to enforce the national lockdown and look out for any rule-breakers.
In a tweet on Saturday night, the force’s Sedgemoor team said ‘multiple vehicles were dispersed’ and seven people were fined for breaches under COVID-19 legislation.
The tweet added: ‘Travelling from Bristol to Cheddar to sit and eat kebabs in your vehicle is not a reasonable excuse! staysafe’
Police did not state if the driver had travelled alone or if there were passengers.
Under the current national coronavirus lockdown, people are once again being urged to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
Cheddar Gorge was the site of a new crackdown of kebab eating over the weekend
Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and ‘act like you’ve got it’ as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives
While people travel from all over to visit the village of Cheddar and walk the gorge, people should only be going there if they are local.
The coronavirus rules state: ‘You must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (for example, for work or education purposes).
‘If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall.’
Outdoor exercise is one of the ‘reasonable excuses’ listed by the government, as a reason to leave home.
However, the government advises: ‘This should be done locally wherever possible.
‘You can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space).’
Restaurants and cafes must close under the national lockdown, but takeaway food and drink and deliveries are still allowed.