Police forces clarify 'local' as fines dished out nationally to COVID-19 rulebreakers

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reportedly spotted on a seven-mile bike trip earlier this week. Two women in Derby were fined £200 for driving five miles for a walk. - Credit: PA

In the wake of scandals involving people travelling outside of their local area for exercise, our police forces in Beds Herts and Cambs have clarified how they will be enforcing the rules.

Reports have surfaced nationally on COVID-19 'rulebreakers', including Prime Minister Boris Johnson - whose seven-mile bike trip was deemed lawful by Met police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick earlier this week.

We had already seen what could happen in Derby, when two women were fined for driving five miles for a walk. They have since had their fines revoked.

So, we asked Beds, Herts and Cambs police forces to clarify the rules, what constitutes 'local' in their mind, and how they plan to enforce these coronavirus restrictions during the third national lockdown.

Both Cambs and Beds Police said: "We would advise people not to travel outside their local area to exercise, and as per the government guidance, ‘stay local’ means stay in the village, town or part of the city where you live, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary, for example, to access an open space.

"It is possible that a person may be approached by officers and asked to explain their journey and why it was considered reasonable."

According to the government website, fixed penalty notices start at £200 for leaving home "without a reasonable excuse", and can rise to a maximum fine of £6,400.

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A Herts police spokeswoman added: "Government guidance strongly requests that people do not leave their local area. However, the COVID regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue fines for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.

“Police officers will be inquisitive about why people are out of their homes and will explain the regulations and encourage people to comply.  Where people are breaching the regulations and are away from home without a reasonable excuse, they may be issued with a fixed penalty notice. In situations where people are breaching the guidance not to travel out their local area but are not breaching regulations, officers will encourage people to follow the guidance.

“We all have a responsibility to follow both the regulations and the guidance in place to protect the NHS and save lives."

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