Police chiefs in talks with government about tightening lockdown exercise rules
Police chiefs are in talks with the Home Office and the Department of Health about tightening lockdown rules around exercise, a senior officer has said.
Owen Weatherill from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), who is leading the policing response to the pandemic in England and Wales, said the rules around exercise are “a real challenge”.
He told the Home Affairs Select Committee that more detail should be added to health guidance and lockdown laws to make them clearer to the public.
The Hertfordshire Constabulary assistant chief constable said: “There is an active conversation at the moment with the Home Office and the Department of Health as to how we might be able to improve that to give greater clarity to the public and also to our officers.
“It’s really difficult to get the right balance, I don’t think there’s a perfect answer for anybody, because whichever way you frame it somebody will be disadvantaged. That’s the reality of what we’re dealing with here.
“There was a deliberate effort to try and make it flexible initially so there was a degree of freedom of choice for people, and you could exercise some of the decisions you wanted to within certain ranges, but that clearly is presenting other problems.
“We now need to think: Is there a better way of doing that? Would we like better proscription?
“I think it would be helpful if we could be a little bit more proscriptive in some respects, so it may be that we need to add some extra definition to it to help people understand it.”
There has been confusion over the rules around exercise, with Derbyshire Constabulary incorrectly fining two women for driving five miles to meet for a walk and the Prime Minister going for a bike ride seven miles from Downing Street.
Government guidance tells the public to stay local to their homes, but there is no specific distance set by law.
The chair of the NPCC, Martin Hewitt, rejected the idea of setting a distance during a Downing Street briefing on Tuesday, because it would be too hard to prove whether someone had broken the rules.
But regional Police Federation leaders in West Yorkshire and Leicestershire called for clarity of the “woolly” and “incredibly vague” regulations.