Derbyshire Police has said all fixed penalty notices issued during the new national lockdown will be reviewed after it received clarification about the coronavirus regulations.
The decision follows the force being branded “bonkers” after two women arriving for a walk at a remote spot around five miles from their homes were handed £200 fines for alleged breaches of lockdown laws.
One of the would-be walkers, Jessica Allen, told the BBC that officers also informed her that a hot drink she had brought with her was not allowed as it was “classed as a picnic”.
The force had said the women could have taken exercise closer to their home addresses, and described their actions as “clearly not in the spirit of the national effort” to reduce travel and the possible spread of coronavirus.
But in a statement on Friday evening, Derbyshire Police said it had received further guidance the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which had clarified that the “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”.
The force said: “All fixed penalty notices during this relevant period that have been issued will be reviewed for compliance.
“All recipients will be contacted.”
Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet added: “Since the start of the pandemic Derbyshire Constabulary have been working to understand the ever-changing guidance and legislation and to communicate this to our officers in a way that makes it clear what is the right course of action to take.
“We are grateful for the guidance from the NPCC and our officers will continue to use the 4Es approach and will of course encourage people to follow the guidance and where appropriate deal with breaches of the regulations.
“The actions of our officers continues to be to protect the public, the NHS and to help save lives.”
We are grateful for the guidance from the NPCC and our officers will continue to use the 4Es approach and will of course encourage people to follow the guidance and where appropriate deal with breaches of the regulationsDerbyshire Police
Current lockdown guidance instructs the public to limit exercise – including running, cycling, swimming and walking – to once per day, and says while people can leave their home, they should not travel outside their local area.
Exercising is permitted within a group from the same property or, when on your own, with one person from another household.
Ms Allen, who lives in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, said of the decision to fine her for being at Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday: “It’s bonkers, isn’t it.”
She told the BBC: “As we drove in there was a police van, a police car, and there were loads of police there.
“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’. Straight away they start questioning us.
“I said we had come 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’.”
Ms Allen said she is taking the pandemic “very seriously” because her brother is a doctor working on a Covid ward in London, and her parents have both had coronavirus.
She said she drove to the reservoir as she knew it would be less crowded than near her house.
“I’m self-employed but my business is closed and I’m trying to fill my time,” she added.
Her friend, Eliza Moore, said she was so stunned she did not challenge police and gave her details so they could send a fixed penalty notice.
The Derbyshire force came under fire in March after filming walkers with drones to deter visitors from the Peak District.
The force also took further drastic measures to prevent gatherings after dyeing a “blue lagoon” black in Harpur Hill, Buxton, in the same month.