Police withdraw £200 fine handed out to 2 women who were 'surrounded by cops' after driving five miles for walk in park

THE two women who were slapped with a £200 fine each for driving five miles to go for a walk in a park have had their penalty notices dropped, it has been reported.

Last week, Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore told how they were "surrounded by cops" and that the drinks they had with them – two peppermint teas from Starbucks – were classed “as a picnic.”

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The pair said they were 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,originally said driving for exercise was "not in the spirit" of lockdown.

Police have since withdrawn the £200 fine and are "apologising for any concern caused".

Local MP Andrew Bridgen says he's "delighted" for his constituents after an apology from heavy handed cops.

Chief Constable Rachel Swann: "Having received clarification of the guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council on Friday, these FPNs as well as a small number of others issued, were reviewed in line with that latest advice."

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa added: “I am pleased an apology has been made at the earliest opportunity and I am sure the Force will learn lessons from this incident.

"However, it is vital people not only abide by the law, but they also enter into the spirit of lockdown and recognise the full seriousness of this emergency."

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'.

I genuinely thought someone had been murdered; the place is normally so quiet. The next thing, my car is surrounded.

"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."

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".

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 hunting down rule breakers with drones in March last year.

Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said he considered Foremark Reservoir 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."

Meanwhile in Shropshire, Chatterton Police have warned residents they could be slapped with fines for playing together in the snow.

Officers from West Mercia Police wrote on Twitter: "There have been two reports of snowballs being thrown last night between 11 and 11.30pm.

"This is obviously not a justifiable reason to be out of your house, this behaviour is likely to result in a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice for breaking the lockdown rules."

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