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Driving to Spelga Dam for picnic, drinking in the street and socialising in cars... more than 200 people in Northern Ireland fined for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules

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PSNI officers patrol the Whiterocks beach at Portrush, County Antrim.

PSNI officers patrol the Whiterocks beach at Portrush, County Antrim.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

PSNI officers patrol the Whiterocks beach at Portrush, County Antrim.

More than 200 people in Northern Ireland have been fined for breaching coronavirus lockdown regulations, including one family who drove from Enniskillen to Spelga Dam for a picnic, the PSNI has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, speaking on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, said that his officers are being "flexible and reasonable" with the public on how far they can travel for exercise.

ACC Todd said that his officers are using discretion, adding that only four people have been fined for taking exercise since the regulations came into force.

He added that members of the public can travel "modest distances" for exercise.

"To put this in context, out of the 207 fines that have been issued up until yesterday across Northern Ireland, four of them related to individuals around the subject of exercise, he said.

"The vast majority of it was for unnecessary travel with no reason, house parties, socialising in peoples' vehicles and public drinking.

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"So those are the much bigger issues we are having to deal with, by and large people understand the message.

"By and large people are doing the responsible thing and I don't want to say anything that would encourage people to think they should be more relaxed around the restrictions and veer away from what thus far has been really successful protecting the health service and keeping people alive."

He added: "We will continue to police this on a reasonable basis, we will continue to engage and explain. Enforcement is only a last resort for people who are clearly in breach. It is a test of reasonableness.

"We have had people drive from Portadown to the Glens of Antrim to go fishing. We have people driving from Enniskillen to Spelga Dam to have a picnic.

"We would all take a view on the reasonableness of this, but if you accept there is a reasonableness test, you have to except that will be the judgement of officers on the ground."

Last week ACC Todd said that over a 100 fines had been issued to people including to those dropping kids of at friends' house, attending house parties and going to barbeques.

Following his appearance on the Nolan Show, ACC Todd said an unapproved statement from an officer posted on both the Larne and Carrickfergus PSNI Faceook pages had 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."


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