Police today faced questions about whether they were taking the Covid crackdown too far as officers swooped on friends drinking tea on a walk to a beauty spot, forced their way into a family home ‘for having too many people inside’ and taped off benches to stop people from sitting down.
Friends Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore were taking a stroll at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire when they were surrounded by officers, read their rights and fined £200 each. The pair were also told their cups of Starbucks peppermint tea were not allowed because they were ‘classed as a picnic’.
Guidance for the current lockdown says people can travel for exercise ‘as long as it is in their local area’, but does not specify how far people can travel. Derbyshire Police insisted the distance was ‘at the discretion’ of individual officers and the trip was ‘not in the spirit of the rules’.
Ms Allen, who lives in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, told the BBC: ‘I genuinely thought someone had been murdered… my car was surrounded… one of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend thinking ”This must be a joke”.’
Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, two policeman knocked on a family’s front door after complaints from a neighbour and stormed inside as a woman shouted ‘this is my house, get out of my house’ and children screamed in the background.
Two women, aged 18 and 48, and a 43-year-old man were charged in connection with assaulting police officers and threatening and abusive behaviour.
The footage immediately sparked controversy, with critics accusing the police of ‘oppressive’ behaviour for storming into a private house – while others argued they were just trying to enforce the Covid rules.
At Euston, officers were seen stopping passengers this morning to ask where they were going. Barrister Alex Wright tweeted: ‘Good to see lockdown being taken seriously, but a sad sight that I’d have dreamed of seeing in London.’
Snowdonia National Park has now closed all its car parks to visitors to ‘protect our communities and the NHS’, as officials slammed the public for ‘disregarding’ the law.
Priti Patel yesterday said it is ‘right’ for officers to confront Britons sat on park benches and argued that police should stop people and demand to know why they are outside their homes. It came as police said they would fine people the first time if they are caught not wearing face coverings or being outside without a suitable reason.
As the crackdown continued –
- Police cars were patrolling the market square in Ely this morning to ensure people were obeying the rules, and benches were taped off;
- Police in Crewe fined two maskless men buying beer at 3am after they claimed to be ‘unaware’ about the lockdown;
- In Nottinghamshire, 20 gym-goers were seen fleeing the World Physiques Gym after police raided the venue;
- In Rochester, Kent, a pub was stripped of its licence and ordered to close after repeatedly holding lock-ins;
- Furious pub owner has posted a sign on his parish hall notice board telling villager to ‘f*** off’, after being reported to the police;
- Brits abroad were told they had five days to come home or would not be able to return without a negative Covid test;
- Boris Johnson vowed to ramp up Britain’s vaccination drive and use Army to deliver 200,000 doses a day;PM slammed Covid deniers and told them to ‘grow up’ while NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens slammed their ‘lies’ about hospitals being empty.
Jessica Allen (left) and Eliza Moore were stopped by police while they were enjoying a socially distanced walk at a Derbyshire beauty spot
Ms Allen (left) and Ms Moore (right) were taking a stroll at Foremark Reservoir when they were surrounded by Derbyshire Police, read their rights and hit with £200 fines each
All car parks in Snowdonia National Park have now been closed to visitors. Pictured is a police car patrolling the beauty spot last night
The Met has vowed not to warn people any longer and punish them with fixed penalty notices of at £200 for first offences, and these officers were also stopping cars
Derbyshire police were pictured turning drivers away at a vehicle checkpoint at Calke Abbey, near Ticknall, yesterday afternoon
Police and Covid marshals patrol the seafront in Bournemouth this morning to spot any people breaking the rules
Police at Euston were this morning seen stopping passengers to ask where they were going. Barrister Alex Wright tweeted: ‘Good to see lockdown being taken seriously, but a sad sight that I’d have dreamed of seeing in London’
Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore decided to visit Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday afternoon to get some fresh air.
Ms Moore said she was ‘stunned’ by what had happened so did not challenge police and gave her details so they could send a fine.
Local MP Andrew Bridgen 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.’
Can police force their way into a house if they suspect rules are being broken? And what is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for going outside?
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.
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, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area
- 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.
It came as a video taken in Aberdeen at 11.20pm on Wednesday before being shared online showed a police officer standing inside the hallway of a home as a woman was held back by another man.
She said: ‘My house. That is bullying. This is my house. Get out of my house. I did not ask you in here.’
A young boy can be seen in the video as the woman’s daughter said: ‘Just stop it mum’.
A police spokesman said: ‘We received a complaint from a member of the public regarding a breach of coronavirus regulations at a property in Aberdeen, around 11.20pm on Wednesday, 6 January, 2021.
‘Officers attended and two women (aged 18 and 48) and a 43-year-old man were charged in connection with assaulting police officers and threatening and abusive behaviour and will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.’
Police officers are legally allowed to enter Britons’ homes if ‘that person reasonably suspects that an offence under regulation 5(1) is taking place on the premises,’ according to legislation.
Just hours after Home Secretary Priti Patel threw her support behind the crackdown yesterday, it emerged that officers in Birmingham questioned a couple with pushchair to ask what business they had in town.
In Ely, Cambridgeshire, disturbing pictures highlighting the harsh reality of lockdown 3.0 showed town-centre seats taped off to stop people using them.
Snowdonia National Park took the decision to close its car parks yesterday after an ‘increase’ in the number of people disregarding Covid rules.
Officials said people could only take part in exercise that started and finished in their own home.
Nigel Harrison, Temporary North Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable said: ‘We understand that people want to go outside to enjoy the mountains and snow, however this is a national emergency and we will continue to work with our National Park colleagues to ensure that Welsh Government restrictions around essential travel are adhered to.’
The World Physiques Gym in Mansfield was raided by police on Monday, with one person at the venue fined £1,000 and another £200 for breaching Covid guidelines.
In Rochester, licencing officers forced the closure of the Hop and Rye pub after finding six people drinking on November 28 last year during the second lockdown.
It came police spotted two maskless men getting out of a cab in Crewe at 3am yesterday before going into a shop and buying a case of beer.
When approached by Cheshire Police officers they said they were ‘unaware’ of the lockdown and the way coronavirus is spread.
Under the national lockdown rules face masks must be worn in shops unless medically exempt from doing so.
A Cheshire Police spokesman said: ‘Officers had to report two men for breaching the lockdown regulations yesterday.
‘The officers were on patrol in Crewe at 3am when they spotted two men leaving a taxi without a face covering.
‘On leaving the shop, the officers approached the men to engage and explain the lockdown regulations while also reiterating the importance of wearing face coverings.
‘The men said they were not aware that a lockdown was in place and were also unaware of how their actions could result in the transmission of coronavirus to others.
‘The officers told the men they would be receiving a fixed penalty notice (FPN) each for their blatant breaching of the coronavirus rules.’
Exercise and essential journeys are the only reasons people are allowed to leave their homes.
In Crowborough, East Sussex, the local running track was closed today due to the ban on sports venues.
It came as a policeman was stopped by officers from his own force and asked where he was going during coronavirus lockdown.
Insp Lee Wiggan was on his way to a meeting at his police headquarters on Wednesday when he was asked to justify his movements by a police officer. It comes as cops said they will beef up the approach to lockdown breachers and impose £200 fines for anyone out without a valid reason.
Insp Wiggan – who covers the Ladywood East area of Birmingham – was on his way to the meeting in the city centre at the West Midlands Police Lloyd House HQ.
Five police officers surround a man at Hammersmith Tube Station in west London yesterday as part of a crackdown on people shunning lockdown
One MailOnline reader sent a picture of these taped off benches in Ely, Cambridgeshire, claiming they are not allowed to be used because of the pandemic
Two police officers knocked on a door in Aberdeen at 11.20pm on Wednesday after a member of the public reported a breach of coronavirus restrictions
What can police do and what CAN’T they do to enforce Covid rules?
If I get stopped by police, do I need to answer their questions?
Police have the power to stop you in a public place and ask for your name, where you are going and what you are doing. This is known as “Stop and Account”. In most circumstances, you don’t have to stay with the officer or answer their questions.
The police also have a power to stop vehicles for any reason. Again, they can ask you to account for yourself, but they can’t generally force you to stay or take further action against you unless they have good reason for doing so.
However, refusing to answer the police’s questions (for example, about who you are gathering with) could give them reason to believe you are breaching the new regulations. This is because it is now a criminal offence to breach the rules in the Tier you are in.
What is reasonable force?
Under the new rules, police can use reasonable force to remove you from a gathering if they believe that you are gathering in a way which is banned by the Tier rules. They can only do this if it’s necessary and proportionate to do so.
They can also use reasonable force if you resist arrest, or if it’s necessary to prevent a crime being committed. These powers come from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (known as PACE). ‘Reasonable force’ means using only as much force as they need in the circumstances. It must be the minimum – no more.
Can I be arrested?
The police can arrest you if they have good reason to believe you might have committed a crime – and that arresting you is necessary.
What I can do if I believe the police have acted unfairly?
If you’re unhappy with the way the police have treated you, you can make a complaint.
It came as a furious pub owner has posted a sign on his parish hall notice board telling villager to ‘f*** off’, after being reported to the police.
Keith Waterhouse, who owns the Badger’s Holt in Bridgetown, Somerset, posted the note on Bridgetown Village Hall after police officers visited him after reports he was breaching Covid-19 rules the previous day.
The note read: ‘Whoever the nasty, vindictive b****** is that reports me to the police for a completely incorrect breach of Covid rules, have the b******* to talk to me first and find out the truth.
Meanwhile, in London yesterday, one man who was stopped outside Hammersmith Tube station was asked to provide his name and address, which was written down and checked by officers, and the reason for his journey. The man was allowed to enter the station and continue travelling but refused to comment on whether he had been fined.
One officer told MailOnline: ‘We’re all over the area to enforce Covid laws and make sure that people are out for the right reasons. If you’re not local or don’t have a valid reason to be out, then you will be fined.’
But the police officer revealed that they had not issued a single fine as most people have been adhering to the rules. saying: ‘I think the message is getting through that you should only be out for essential reasons’.
In Birmingham, an exchange between two officers and a couple with a pushchair walking through the city centre only ended when the man produced cash from his pocket and told officers they were going to pay in money at a bank.
The pedestrian, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I don’t know why they picked on us.
‘They just asked why we were in the city centre and when I explained about the bank they left it at that. I think it’s just a matter of control really.’
The same pair of Police Community Support Officers then quizzed two men languishing by a shop doorway and threatened one with a £250 fine if he did not leave.
Isaac, 33 – who only provided his first name – said: ‘I have to come into the city centre to pick up my methadone from Boots pharmacy.
‘During the first lockdown they would give us two weeks worth so as to stop us making so many trips out but this time they are only giving it to last a day so we will have to be back tomorrow.
‘The officers were very fair because my friend is not really allowed in the city centre and could have been given a £250 fine on the spot and not just a warning.’
His friend Luke, 34 – who also declined to supply a surname – added: ‘Methadone is not something you want to be picking up in your local area so I come to the city centre.
‘These officers were fair. They told us not to hang around and to make our way home.
‘Another officer would have taken a much harder approach.’
Thames Valley Police apologised for the behaviour of an officer who they said was ‘a bit keen’ in handing out leaflets outside a Tesco in Maidenhead earlier this week asking drivers ‘why are you here today?’