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Coronavirus: Police enforcement of lockdown exercise rules 'a mess', says SDLP's Eastwood

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Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said rules on exercise being enforced by the PSNI during the coronavirus lockdown are "a mess".

Speaking on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, the SDLP leader called for a 2km zone to be enforced for exercise, similar to what is in place in the Republic of Ireland. He called for this to be added to the legislation by the Northern Ireland Executive to clarify the rules.

He said: "I think that is a bit of a mess. What they have done in the South is say you can exercise within two kilometres of your house. That seems to be at least one way of doing it that seems to be sensible and that you can measure it. That to me seems a good way of trying to do it."

"This was always going to be difficult to police. All of these measures are going to be difficult to police."

He added: "If people don't know what the rules are and it is very difficult for the police to police the rules, then it is a bit of a mess, we need to get that sorted. People needed to be very clear."

Mr Eastwood's comments come after PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd told the Nolan Show on Thursday that officers have to use their judgement on whether a person's journey is "reasonable and necessary".

He revealed on Thursday that 206 people have been fined for breaching coronavirus regulations in Northern Ireland so far.

Justice Minister Naomi Long, referring to rules being enforced on exercise, said it was not her role to make changes to coronavirus lockdown regulations.

She tweeted: "It's not my role. The regulations are guided by the Department of Health and Chief Medical Officer's advice: technically they need to advise the police what is required for health protection.

"I raised this on behalf of the Chief Constable at Executive, and it is being addressed."

Yesterday, Mr Todd said an unapproved statement from an officer posted on both the Larne and Carrickfergus PSNI Faceook pages, which said exercise was to "start at the front door", was inaccurate.

He added: "The contents of the post were inaccurate and did not reflect the corporate position of the police on people travelling for exercise under the new Covid-19 Regulations, this post was later removed.

"The restrictions are clear in that they require you to not only have a reason to leave home, but a necessity.

"Leaving home without that necessity may put you in breach of the restrictions.

"The keys for us are, is your journey necessary and is it reasonable? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you travel because the test of reasonableness and necessity are the parameters within which police officers must operate.

"The vast majority of people are abiding by the guidance and the rules and we appreciate their support and cooperation.

"I want to say thank you to our communities at this time. I know that you are being asked to make extraordinary changes to your lifestyle and I know this is a really difficult time for people. But you are making a difference and you are saving lives."

Belfast Telegraph