Two women have described how they were “treated like criminals” after being surrounded by police and fined £200 each for apparently breaching lockdown rules when they drove five miles to meet for a walk.
Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore said they were surrounded by police when they met up at a reservoir near where they live.
“We were treated like criminals,” Allen, from Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, said on Instagram.
“They read us our rights to say that anything we say may be held in evidence and used in court. We had gone for a walk five miles away from home!”
The women told the BBC that they were surrounded by police when they arrived at Foremark Reservoir in South Derbyshire.
Allen said she assumed “someone had been murdered” when she arrived at the beauty spot due to the number of police there.
“The next thing, my car is surrounded,” she told the BBC. “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 thinking 'This must be a joke'.”
She said she tried to explain that they had come in separate cars, parked two spaces from each other and even brought their own drinks with them.
But she said they were told their hot drinks weren’t allowed as they were “classed as a picnic” and the women were read their rights and fined £200 each.
Guidance for the current national coronavirus lockdown says people can travel for exercise as long as it is in their “local area”.
Allen said on Instagram: “People have got in touch to say that it would have tipped them over the edge.
“A lot of people aren’t earning any money and to have gone on a walk just to have a chat with their friend and something like that happens. It’s really sad. I literally haven’t slept a wink.
“Please don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot bigger things going on in the world than my £200 ‘going on a walk fine’ but I really wanted to bring awareness to it so it didn’t happen to anyone else when I feel like it’s really unfair.
“We weren’t having a party, we hadn’t snuck off somewhere that we thought we shouldn’t have been as in on a holiday or anything like that. It was just genuinely something so innocent.”
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 https://t.co/9X5oKOm2cc
— Andrew Bridgen (@ABridgen) January 8, 2021
Sharing the story on Twitter, North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “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.”
Derbyshire Constabulary told the BBC: "It is up to each individual officer on a case-by-case basis to decide what is reasonable as the legislation does not proscribe a distance."
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who has analysed the government’s COVID laws throughout the pandemic, said that there is no legal limit on how far people can travel for exercise.
It is not enforceable in law. No explicit limit on how far you can travel for exercise or for how long in the law. There will come a point where you travel so far that the journey becomes the reason not the exercise but driving a few miles should not breach the regulations https://t.co/ljp1CjfmNV
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) January 8, 2021
He also said that bringing a drink on a walk does not break the law.
He wrote on Twitter: “There is no mention of picnics in the legal regulations. You can exercise but you can't go out for open air recreation. Having a coffee whilst you exercise doesn't make it not exercise.”
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown