Matt Hancock 'Absolutely Backs' Police Who Fined Women Walking In Park
Matt Hancock says he 'absolutely will back the police' when he was asked about the £200 fines issued to two women who drove to a beauty spot for a walk.
When quizzed by Sky News, the Health Secretary added that 'every flex of the rules can be fatal'.
The 42-year-old went on to say: "I think the police have been doing an absolutely brilliant job in very difficult circumstances.
"The challenge here is that every flexibility can be fatal. You might look at the rules and think to yourself, well it doesn't matter too much if I just do this or I just do that.
"These rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit of what people should be doing."
When asked whether people should expect to be fined if they drive somewhere for exercise, he replied: "Obviously I don't know the specific circumstances, and I support the police in doing their very difficult job, which they are doing very sensitively.
"They are also right to take very seriously the rules we've brought in. You know, we haven't brought them in because we wanted to, we've brought them in because we've had to, and every flexibility can be fatal."
Earlier this week, Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, both 27, claim they were surrounded by police when they arrived separately at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire.
The pair say they believed they were following the guidelines of staying local to exercise, with both of them only living ten minutes away in nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire.
But they were left stunned to be 'read their rights' by cops, then slapped with £200 fines for breaking lockdown.
Derbyshire Police have defended the decision to fine the women, saying that driving for exercise was 'not in the spirit' of lockdown.
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According to the two friends, officers told them that their actions were classed as a 'picnic' due to them bringing drinks along with them.
Speaking about the incident, beautician Jessica said: "As we drove in there was a police van, a police car, and there were loads of police there - we thought there must have been a murder or something.
"I genuinely thought something major had happened as the place is normally so quiet. The next thing, my car is surrounded by police and they start questioning us as soon as we both set foot outside.
"One of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend thinking, 'This must be a joke'. I pointed out that we came in separate cars, even parked two spaces away and even brought our own drinks with us.
"He said, 'You can't do that as it's classed as a picnic'. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."
According to guidance, exercise should be limited to a person's 'local area', though this is not specifically defined by miles.
We have welcomed new guidance from the NPCC around people travelling and exercising during this lockdown period. Read more on our website https://t.co/2K1SXTXPCn
- Derbyshire Police (@DerbysPolice) January 8, 2021
A Derbyshire Police spokesperson 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.
"Each officer will use their professional judgement on a case-by-case basis, however, people should expect to be challenged and understand the clear reasons why they may be asked about their movements given the critical situation the NHS currently finds itself in."
Following clarification from the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) which stated that 'Covid regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs (fixed penalty notices) for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise', Derbyshire Police said FPNs would be reviewed.
The force added: "All fixed penalty notices during this relevant period that have been issued will be reviewed for compliance. All recipients will be contacted."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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