People travelling to exercise cannot be fined, says Derbyshire crime commissioner

Police cannot fine people for travelling long distances to exercise, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said.

Hardyal Dhindsa says while officers can fine people not sticking to the rules, the distance they have travelled to do this does not have an impact on whether or not they will be fined.

Instead, Mr Dhindsa says his understanding is the main factor behind whether someone is the reason for their journey and not how far they have travelled to get there.

He was speaking the same day two women who had travelled less than eight miles to walk at a Derbyshire beauty spot had their lockdown fines dropped by Derbyshire Constabulary who have come under fire for their approach to policing lockdown.

Under lockdown in England you are allowed to go out to exercise – with one other person – so long as you stay local. However, there is some debate over what ‘local’ actually means which is causing confusion.

Kit Malthouse, Crime and Policing minister, today said that it is open to interpretation.

The rule itself reads: “Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.”

However, the National Police Chiefs Council has said the Covid Regulations themselves, which officers enforce, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.

Mr Dhindsa said his understanding was that people could not be fined based just on the distance they travel to go somewhere.

This came after a family from Peterborough – some 96 miles away from the Peak District – were among those who travelled to Dovedale to walk this weekend.

“The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) put out a statement that says distance travelled is not against the regulations, but it’s strongly encouraged that people don’t travel far,” said Mr Dhindsa.

“If they came here for exercise they cannot be fined. If officers believe the reason they came for is legitimate, they cannot be fined.”

Mr Dhindsa said it was right the force apologise if it gets something wrong and defended officers working in “difficult circumstances”.

“We should be big enough to apologise and rescind the notices if that’s the case,” he said.

“I’m really proud of the police officers in Derbyshire, they’re having to do a really difficult job in difficult circumstances.

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa

“We have attractive beauty spots such as the Peak District that people want to go to and local people are concerned – they want to make sure that people don’t spread the virus.

“We are getting a new set of rules and regulations and sometimes it’s hard to apply them, that makes it a difficult job for the police.

“We get hundreds and thousands of calls, it’s no surprise that now and then we get it wrong.

“If we do, we should be able to be big enough to say we got it wrong and that will learn to improve.”

Mr Dhindsa added he wants people to enter the spirit of the lockdown by minimising the amount of travel they do and only leaving the house for essential purposes.

“The majority of residents are supportive of the action taken.

“The majority of people comply with the police when they give them advice and if people don’t heed it then they will more robustly go to enforcement than in the past.

“They will do it in a balanced and proportionate way.”

He added he felt the Government should be clearer on what the rules mean, something that was backed up by a police federation chief who says says officers have been “made scapegoats for poor policy”.

Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation (WYPF), said officers had been “hung out to dry” as a result of “woolly laws”.

Speaking to PA, he said: “The Government need to make it crystal clear what’s involved so the public know what they can and can’t do and police officers know what they can and can’t enforce.

“In the guidance it says exercise should be local. Why not just move that straight into the law and say you can take exercise within one mile of your home address? Really simple to understand, really simple to enforce.

“It stops us being the scapegoats. It shouldn’t be the police officers being criticised because someone hasn’t written the law properly.”

Kit Malthouse, Crime and Policing minister, said officers are hoping the public will recognise what “local” means.

Speaking to Times Radio on Tuesday, January 12, he said: “What we are hoping for is that most people will recognise that local, while it’s open to personal interpretation, does have some implications, ie can you get there under your own steam?

“We are trying to strike a balance between maintaining compliance with the rules and elements of public consent to what’s happening.

“I think most people would think that was reasonable.

“Where there are unreasonable people who are breaking that rule, police are intervening.”

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