Police forces accused of overzealousness as they follow dog walkers

Lawyers say ‘overzealous’ police forces are breaking law by chasing ramblers with drones and threatening to arrest drivers for making ‘non-essential’ journeys – as government insists coronavirus lockdown does NOT prohibit driving to take exercise

  • Police forces across the UK today are facing accusations of over zealousness 
  • Officers are cracking down on people who are flouting coronavirus lockdown
  • But forces are accused of being heavy handed after filming people using drones
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Lawyers have today warned that police are ‘unlawfully’ trying to restrict people travelling to isolated spots to exercise and walk their dogs. 

Police forces across the country are facing accusations of overzealousness as they use sweeping new powers to crack down on people flouting the coronavirus lockdown. 

Those who defy tough restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially and £120 for a second offence reaching £1,000-plus for repeat offenders, the Home Office warned. 

But guidelines issued by the Cabinet Office do not prohibit driving somewhere for exercise or dog walking. 

Derbyshire Police is now embroiled in a furious row after tweeting ‘menacing’ drone footage chasing and ‘shaming’ ramblers and dog walkers in the Peak District. 

Neath Port Talbot council has also begun using drones equipped with speakers to shout at groups of people outside – though some targeted claim they had been ‘waiting hours for prescriptions before they were ordered to go home.’

Critics say the unprecedented powers handed to officers by ministers will see the country ‘sliding into dystopia.’ 

As the row intensified today, Leading QC Matthew Ryder said there was an ‘overwhelming consensus from lawyers that police trying to restrict people to ‘emergency travel only’ is unlawful.’ 

Former MPs also claim police are ‘showing an astounding lack of judgement’ and needed to exercise ‘common sense and respect’ and use their powers elsewhere.  

Derbyshire Police sent up their drone and filmed people on ‘not essential’ trips to the Peak District including people posing for an ‘Instagram snap’

As the row intensified today, Leading QC Matthew Ryder said there was an ‘overwhelming consensus from lawyers that police trying to restrict people to ‘emergency travel only’ is unlawful.’

Home Office reveals new powers to tackle people flouting the coronavirus lockdown 

  • Up to two years in prison if you cough deliberately on someone after spate of attacks on police and emergency service workers
  • People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and can be arrested as part of new enforcement powers announced by the Home Office.
  • Officers can also tell them to go home, leave or disperse an area and ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking the law.
  • Those who refuse to comply could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
  • Second-time offenders could be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.
  • Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose fines up to £1,000 or more; 

Among those responding to Derbyshire Police’s drone footage was ex-Lord Chancellor, David Gauke. 

The former Work and Pensions Secretary and Justice Secretary said: ‘This is badly misjudged. People should maintain social distancing, which is what these people are doing. We need to maintain public support for fundamental behaviour change which requires the authorities to focus on genuinely bad behaviour.’

Derbyshire Police took the extraordinary step of using one of its drones to film dog walkers, ramblers and a group posing for Instagram pictures on a cliff top at sunset last night – highlighting their movements and accusing them of making an ‘unessential’ trip. 

Using the unmanned aircraft they also gathered number plates from parked cars and traced their owners to their homes in Sheffield saying: ‘Walking your dog in the Peak District: Not essential.’ 

Appearing on BBC Breakfast today, Superintendent Steve Pont from Derbyshire Police hit back at allegations he was ‘shaming’ dog walkers, claiming people were ‘looking for excuses and loopholes as to why they don’t need to stay at home when everyone else does.’ 

Supt Pont said his force was, ‘here to apply the law the government makes.’ 

People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and could be arrested by police.

Those who ignore tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially and another for £120 for a second offence, the Home Office warned.

Officers will have the power to enforce rules on staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel from Thursday.

They can order members of the public to go home, leave an area and have the power to disperse a group.

Police can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.

According to the guidance, the cost of initial fixed penalty notices will be cut to £30 if paid within 14 days and those who do not pay could be taken to court and risk facing costs for unlimited fines.

The Home Office said: ‘If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where deemed proportionate and necessary.

‘However, in the first instance, the police will always apply their common sense and discretion.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘The Prime Minister has been clear on what we need to do: stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.

‘All our frontline services really are the best of us and are doing an incredible job to stop this terrible virus from spreading.

‘That’s why I’m giving the police these new enforcement powers, to protect the public and keep people safe.’


Boris Johnson has stressed that unless you are a key worker or helping someone vulnerable, the only reasons to go outside are to go shopping for essentials, exercise once a day or fulfil any medical needs. 

Those flouting the rules face fines of up to £960, and police can now arrest anyone found outside without good reason. 

In addition, the Director of Public Prosecutions yesterday warned that anyone deliberately coughing at 999 workers to spread coronavirus faces up to two years in jail. 

But barrister Matthew Ryder argued: ‘Seems to be overwhelming consensus from lawyers that police trying to restrict people to ‘emergency travel only’ is unlawful.

‘They have no power to stop someone driving to an isolated scenic spot to exercise away from others (nor is there any logical reason why there should be).

‘If you live in a densely packed city like London, the local park now feels like a crowded gym much of the day: people exercising, walking dogs, letting kids run about. 

‘Stopping people going out to isolated spots for exercise in order to ease that crowding is counterproductive.’

Former West Midlands MEP Roger Helmer tweeted: ‘For heaven’s sake, Derbyshire police, get a sense of proportion. These people were taking exercise (permitted) and maintaining social separation (mandated). There are much more important matters which you should be pursuing.’ 

Supt Pont told the BBC: ‘We’ve received the legislation which is easy for people to understand. If people continue to flout this then we will resort to giving out fines.

‘We wanted to reinforce the message of, ‘stay home’ because a number of people aren’t staying home; they’re finding excuses and loopholes to go out. 

‘We wanted to illustrate that this is the wrong thing to do – last weekend the Peak District was overflowing with tourists.’

But presenter Charlie Stayt argued there was little chance of infecting other people if people travel in their own car to a remote location and walk away from other people, exercising their rights in a safe manner. 

He added: ‘It’s not really up to you to stop them.’ 

Supt Pont added: ‘If people drive in their cars and go walking along the clifftops, there’s a potential for accidents. Mountain rescue have said they don’t want people doing it. 

‘If the NHS are responding to a road traffic collisions, that is taking up their time.

‘The point is, government legislation says you should make your time away from home as short as possible. 

‘It is not as short as possible if you feel like going for a drive in the Peak District.’ 

He added: ‘We are hoping to appeal to the better judgement of these people. 

‘The NHS are heroes – they are asking, begging us, to stay at home. And 93-4 per cent of the public are doing that but some people are trying to find excuses not to.’ 

The apparent need for the new police powers to break up gatherings has been illustrated by reports of officers being called to friends having barbecues, house parties and games of football. 

Neath Port Talbot council and South Wales Police are also using drones equipped with speakers to disperse groups of people congregating outside. 

The council has teamed up with South Wales Police to identify popular hotspots. 

North Yorkshire Police begin vehicle checks to support ‘stay at home’ message to support the Government’s measures to protect the NHS and save lives during the Coronavirus outbreak


Police officers now have powers to enforce staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel, as of 1pm on Thursday.

As a result, people who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and could be arrested or fined. Officers can use ‘reasonable force, if necessary’.

What is the law called and where is it in force?

Known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, they are currently in force in England.

The regulations are expected to be introduced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales by the end of Thursday.

What are the main points of the rules?

Police can order members of the public to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group, using ‘reasonable force, if necessary’ and can make arrests if someone refuses to comply.

Those who ignore the tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days – and another for £120 for a second offence.

Those who do not pay could be taken to court and risk facing costs for unlimited fines.

Refusing to provide a name and address to avoid being given a fine is an arrestable offence.

Officers can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.

Why have the rules been enacted?

The Government says it is to protect the public and keep people safe.

The regulations state they are made ‘in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health’ posed by Covid-19 and the Government considers the ‘restrictions and requirements imposed by these regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve’.

But human rights campaigners have raised concerns about the restrictions posed by the powers.

How long will they be in force?

The regulations are classed as emergency laws.

They must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on April 16.

Why can I leave my house and how often?

Reasons for why someone may leave their house as well as to get food and medical supplies for you, your household or vulnerable people, are to get money and to exercise.

A reasonable excuse also includes: to give blood, attend a funeral, meet bail conditions, go to court and take part in legal proceedings, to move house and to ‘avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm’.

The rules do not appear to limit how many times per day someone can leave their house.

What else do the rules say?

The rules define who is considered a vulnerable person under the law as someone who is aged 70 or older, anyone aged under 70 who has an underlying health condition and anyone who is pregnant.

Underlying health conditions include: chronic long-term respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinson’s, diabetes, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy, HIV, Aids, cancer, and obesity.

It also lists in detail the businesses and buildings which can stay open – like supermarkets, hardware stores and post offices – and must close – such as pubs, restaurants and theatres – during the crisis.


The council says it hopes the use of drones, ‘will help to remind people not following the rules about what their responsibilities are.’

A spokesman from Neath Port Talbot council said: ‘Drones are now being used to distribute public information messages across Neath Port Talbot during the coronavirus outbreak.

‘We have teamed up with South Wales Police to survey hotspots where people are not following government measures on social distancing.

‘The drones are equipped with speakers that will transmit messages directly to the public.

‘We are reminding residents to stay at home except for (reasons outlined by the Government).’

But while some praised the measures, others claimed they were unnecessary.

Writing on Facebook, Carly Murray said: ‘This upset a lot of people today at Neath boots. People were waiting for prescriptions and people were very orderly and staying two metres apart. This drone turned up and changed the mood.

‘As people were perplexed where it’s had come from and what they could do as they were waiting for Boots. People were annoyed to be told to go home when they were already stressed and fed up waiting hours for medications.’ 

The head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Max Hill QC, warned that offenders coughing and spitting at key workers would be charged with common assault, punishable by up to two years in prison. 

His intervention came after Darren Rafferty, 45, from Dagenham, east London, admitted three counts of assaulting an emergency worker after claiming to have coronavirus and deliberately coughing at officers arresting him for grievous bodily harm. 

David Mott, 40, from Blackburn, was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison after threatening to spit at officers when they asked him why he was outdoors with two others on Monday night.  

In response to new police powers being brought into force to make sure coronavirus lockdown restrictions are followed, Clare Collier, advocacy director at Liberty, said: ‘We’re extremely concerned by the extent of these coercive powers.

‘This is a pandemic and so it should be treated as a public health issue. Instead, the Government is treating it as a criminal justice issue, putting resources into detaining and criminalising.

‘What’s concerning is what this heavy-handed approach will do to the public’s relationship with the police in the long-term.

‘While some people will feel reassured by a firmer police response to the pandemic, others will feel fear, especially groups who are already over-policed.

‘We’ve seen an amazing response from communities to the pandemic, with neighourhoods rallying together, but trust and goodwill may break down in the face of authoritarianism and harsh policing.’ 

Police forces this week have reported a surge of mindless violence by bored yobs. 

In Merseyside, a hospital worker was attacked with a bike saddle by a group of teenagers as he went to buy groceries. 

The radiographer at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral needed seven stitches after he was targeted by four youths outside an Asda supermarket in Birkenhead.

Elsewhere in Merseyside, a group of children became involved in a standoff with police after climbing onto a leisure centre roof for an hour and refusing to come down.

Derbyshire Police revealed they were investigating a vicious assault on a farmer who was punched 15 times and kicked in the ribs when he asked a Peak District walker to ‘go home’. 

The victim, from Edale, was ‘left shaken and bruised’ after he was assaulted while disinfecting his gates on Sunday due to hundreds of people walking past.

Poll finds 11% of Britons are still going to crowded public spaces and 10% are visiting friends 

A survey for ITV’s Peston programme found millions of people are not complying with the government’s lockdown measures

A shock poll conducted for ITV’s Peston this week found 7 per cent of Britons are still going out to see friends, 8 per cent are doing ‘non-essential shopping’ and 5 percent have not started washing their hands more.

The survey also showed 6 per cent are continuing to hug others and shake hands, despite warnings this will spread the deadly virus which has already claimed 463 lives in Britain with 9,500 people now having tested positive.

Some 11 per cent of people are still going to public places while 33 per cent are stockpiling and ignoring pleas from supermarkets to save goods for the elderly, vulnerable and NHS workers.

A further 8 per cent (5.8 million) are continuing to shop for goods when not absolutely necessary and 7 per cent are meeting people outside of the immediate family they are living with, according to the JL Partners survey.

It also revealed that some 5 per cent of people – or 2.6million of the population – are still not washing their hands more than usual, or for longer than usual.

Some 34 per cent of people still going shopping and seeing friends claim they are doing it ‘safely’, while 14 per cent claim the risk of coronavirus is being ‘exaggerated’ and 7 per cent refuse to abandon their daily habits because the Government ‘hasn’t ruled it out’.

Those refusing to comply by the Government advice are generally young males while 15 per cent steadfastly say ‘we can’t let the virus defeat us’. 

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