£200 fines dropped against women who drove 10 minutes to go for a walk

Two women who were fined a total of £400 for driving five miles to go for a walk will not have to pay the penalties.

Police confirmed they have dropped the fines against Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, who said they were ‘surrounded’ by police after driving in separate cars to Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire.

The friends, both 27, were told the peppermint teas they brought classed as a ‘picnic’ and were fined £200 each on Wednesday.

They were told by police officers that, after driving just 10 minutes down the road from their hometown of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in Leicestershire, their actions were not in the ‘spirit’ of lockdown.

After gaining considerable media attention over the weekend, Derbyshire Police’s Chief Constable Rachel Swann said today the two fines ‘have been withdrawn and we have notified the women directly, apologising for any concern caused’.

She added: ‘Having received clarification of the guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) on Friday, these FPNs as well as a small number of others issued, were reviewed in line with that latest advice, and so it is right that we have taken this action.’

In a statement, the women said: ‘This afternoon we both received a phone call from Derbyshire Police.

‘After reviewing our case, our fines have been rescinded and we have received an apology on behalf of the constabulary for the treatment we received.

‘We welcomed this apology and we are pleased to draw a line under this event.’

The pair said at the time they believed they were responsibly following the guidelines and that it was safer to drive to the quiet reservoir, rather than walking in their local area which was busier.

Official Government guidance states that people are only permitted to leave their home for exercise once a day – but ‘you should not travel outside your local area’. The rules mention nothing about driving to exercise, nor do they define the meaning of ‘local’.

Following the incident, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has ‘clarified the policing response concerning travel and exercise’.

The guidance reads: ‘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.’

Matt Hancock previously defended the police response against Ms Allen and Ms Moore saying ‘every flexibility can be fatal’, after the force confirmed it would review its position after being criticised for taking an ‘intimidating’ approach against the women.

Derbyshire Constabulary decided to review all fines issued during the third national lockdown.

The chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation (WYPF) had urged the Government to make coronavirus regulations ‘crystal clear’ to stop officers ‘being made scapegoats for poor policy’.

Brian Booth said officers trying to enforce the rules have been ‘hung out to dry’ as a result of ‘woolly laws’.

The news comes hours after it was reported that the prime minister cycled at least 7 miles away from his Downing Street home over the weekend, according to the Evening Standard.

Boris Johnson was reportedly spotted at about 2pm cycling through Olympic Park, in Stratford, despite his own rules saying people must stay local for exercise.

The PM is said to have been concerned over how busy the park was and brought it up at a Cabinet meeting later that evening.

It comes as ministers are reportedly considering a wider crackdown on lockdown rules, including the introduction of a curfew, the mandatory use of face coverings in outdoor public places and a limit on shoppers inside supermarkets.

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