Fresh police guidance says that it’s OK to drive a reasonable distance for exercise

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Following on from a couple of posts here about policing the Covid-19 restrictions, the police have been issued with fresh guidance on the matter, as reported by the Guardian:

Police chiefs have told officers that people should not be punished for driving a reasonable distance to exercise, and that blanket checks were disproportionate, in a bid to quell a row about heavy-handed enforcement of the coronavirus lockdown.

Amid anger at some forces setting up checkpoints and using drones to target people visiting rural beauty spots, the guidance reissued and updated late on Tuesday aims to forge more consistency across 44 forces in England and Wales.

It is issued by the College of Policing, which sets professional standards, and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), and tells officers both what they can do and what police leaders would prefer them to refrain from doing.

It sticks to the powers in the emergency law passed last Thursday, and not statements made by senior government figures about what they wanted the public to do. The two had been contradictory and were the source of potential confusion for some officers.

There are a couple of sets of guidelines from the College of Policing here and here. The latter document says:

…people will want to exercise locally and may need to travel to do so, we don’t want the public sanctioned for travelling a reasonable distance to exercise.

The clarification of the guidelines follows criticism of some police forces from former Supreme Court Lord Sumption:

A former Supreme Court judge has likened Derbyshire Police’s approach to the restrictions on public movement to “a police state”.

Lord Sumption told Radio 4’s World At One the use of drones to film walkers in the Peak District was “disgraceful” and “shamed our policing traditions”.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Phil Beesley 1st Apr '20 - 3:18pm

    Joe Otten: “Also is it OK to have a picnic in the middle of my walk?”

    It is probably unwise this week or next, while we all adjust our social distancing behaviour. Maybe after some people realise that youth and good health do not provide 100% protection, and that the best of personal circumstances may not save them from a painful illness, with potential long term effects.

    So maybe wait a bit.

    Ten days ago, when pubs and cafes were ordered to close, I predicted that there would be a need for ‘safe break’ places for transport drivers and those who need to travel. Today, there are news stories about lorry drivers being denied access to toilet facilities.

    We are ‘all in this together’, so we do not expect to be led by donkeys.

  • For the first time ever there were no cars parked down by the seafront today, think the ever increasing deaths are sinking in!

  • Good. It’s entirely irresponsible, and arrogant to give the impression that people who live in built up areas must all exercise in close proximity to each other and risk infection that way, rather than drive a suitably short distance to exercise somewhere with plenty of space.

    It’s not just irrational from a public health perspective, as the small increased risk of traffic accidents will not make up for the increased risk of infections, or reduction in general health from those who decide not to bother, but the policy of ‘no driving for fresh air’ is incredibly discriminatory. It’s been devised by people with big gardens, plenty of nice spaces very local to where they live and zero empathy.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Apr '20 - 4:18pm

    It is a slight mystery to me as to why a locked parked car is a threat to anyone! As ever it is what people do and how that matters.

  • It’s not just walkers. I heard yesterday from a close relation who knows a contract gardener who was pulled over by the police a few days ago and threatened with six months in jail if he was caught out again – all reportedly done with a very aggressive tone and body language by two burly cops.

    The gardener concerned cuts lawns and hedges for a living, working with his own tools and by himself. There is no risk whatsoever to himself or anyone else. So why shouldn’t he continue to work as usual?

    And it’s not just gardeners. We recently commissioned a local metalworker to make a new garden gate. I just spoke to him on the phone and it’s nearly finished. The posts were done ages ago so as soon as he is ready, he can bring it round for a trial hang prior to final adjustments if any.

    It’s not a large gate so he can easily manage it himself but now I’m wondering if he will get into trouble with the police or if delivery should be deferred until the crisis is over.

    This sort of thing causes real harm to people and misses the real risks to public health such as the scandalous lack of PPE. Were a building firm send its staff to work without appropriate PPE and that lack led to injury and death, the managers of the firm would be looking a prosecution by the HSE with the probability of a custodial sentence.

    The lack of PPE is certainly causing health workers in considerable numbers to experience injury and, in some cases, death. So, can we expect to see the lamentable Health Secretary and Prime Minister in court or is the law only for the little people?

  • Ruth Bright 1st Apr '20 - 5:18pm

    At the govt briefing they expressed concern about the uptick in road use so it is a bit confusing. I live on a small estate where it is obvious that women children and older people are staying home but younger men less so. Vans of both kinds 😊 everywhere.

  • We should be concerned about this. People are having their liberty and right to work restricted based on very limited evidence and unclear messages. I want to know why we are following methods used by China and ignoring other models. When this is over some serious questions need to be asked.

  • @Glenn

    ” I want to know why we are following methods used by China and ignoring other models. When this is over some serious questions need to be asked”

    What other models would you suggest Glenn and what do they entail?

  • @Fiona – “It’s entirely irresponsible, and arrogant to give the impression that people who live in built up areas must all exercise in close proximity to each other and risk infection that way”

    However, by travelling into another area and thus widening the shared environment and groups of people you come into contact with, you do increase your risk of becoming a carrier…

  • Gordon,
    In relation to the lack of PPE for NHS staff, the HASAWA1974, places responsibility on the employers to provide their employees a safe place of work, safe method of work, suitable training, etc. This also applies to their contractors. The NHS is also directed by this law to have a director with specific responsibility for H&S issues.
    Sadly this lets Government Ministers off the hook.
    Whether the HSE have the will to prosecute under current circumstances is another matter, possibly for a future commission of enquiry?

  • Mario Caves 2nd Apr '20 - 9:29am

    “I’d always take the name and shoulder number of the police officer before complying with an order I felt to be unlawful.”

    Good advice, but you have no obligation to comply with an order that is unlawful.
    The best defence in the situation is to ask the officer exactly which law you are breaking. Then tell him if he does not know what law you are breaking, how can he be enforcing it?

    I’m all for heeding the government advice, but the police job is to enforce the law, not to make up their own rules or harrass the public doing what is legal.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Apr '20 - 10:48am

    It’s good that the police have now been told by their own authorities what the law is, and that it is much less restrictive than the ‘guidance’ issued. We all now need to stand up, as people above are suggesting, against individual police who take the ‘Stay home’ message as a catch-all to interfere with people’s rights to be out and about, for their health or their work as well as for necessary shopping and caring for others. The idea that they are promoting the nation’s health by unwarranted interference is ridiculous, since they have been causing distress and anger by doing so, and it is not a recognised national problem to have a few more cars on the roads this month than last, though fewer than there have habitually been.

    My only slight concern is about the review of the regulations on April 16th. Would it be
    legal for the Secretary of State for Health to issue a new Statutory Instrument to change the regulations while Parliament is not sitting? Michael BG is asking at the enquiries email address at Parliament, and I am going to email our spokesperson for justice, Daisy Cooper MP. We would not want the regulations changed possibly to restrict civil liberties further, and it is all too easy for erosion of liberties to become entrenched.

  • Tony Vickers – I am not a lawyer, but my sense is, exactly as you say, that it is not against the spirit or letter of the law to go to work. In this case (at least as reported to me) there clearly was work to be done or he wouldn’t have been on the road in the first place. The gardener and taxpayers alike have reason to be aggrieved.

    As it happens, we have two building sites nearby. One is an extension that’s nearly finished, with most of the remaining work inside. The builders have closed the site until further notice. The second site is a new build that’s structurally complete including the roof and glazing. There’s some external work to do but it’s mostly inside now. The builders are continuing although at a slower pace as far as I can judge from vehicle movements.

    So, different sites, different outcomes.

    Andy Hyde – I confess I’m not seriously expecting to see any ministers in the dock at the High Court. For them the Court of Public Opinion is appropriate – but its operation is down to opposition politicians and the media. It’s encouraging to see that even the Tory media are beginning to get very cross about it but what about LDs? I’m not hearing anything from them (or indeed Labour).

    But that’s not the same for functional directors in the public sector. They get fancy salaries and should be expected to deliver corresponding results provided that (and this is an important caveat) that they have the operational freedom to do the right thing. So, it might be we should look to the top of the tree.

    Health & Safety should be a whole of organisation concern, part of the culture and training and not an add-on to be ignored when no-one’s looking One dodge is to appoint a H&S Director with nominally equal standing (and salary) with other directors but actually regarded as relatively junior. Such an appointee is referred to in private as the ‘fuse’ – to be blown in an emergency to protect the ‘real’ directors.

    In the NHS PPE case, I think we should eventually see firings and possibly prosecutions.

  • John Barrett 2nd Apr '20 - 3:30pm

    Gordon – The First Minister in Scotland specifically stated that it was ok for gardeners and window cleaners, who work on their own and who keep a safe distance from everyone, to continue with their work.

    She also stated that it was good for the community for those people to be out and about and in contact (at a distance) with often elderly and sometimes lonely people.

    I am not sure what the official line is for gardeners in England, but I would have thought the above line makes perfect sense.

  • Gordon,
    Too true, although the Met Police were taken to task over H&S issues in a recent court case, so it could happen although unlikely as you say.
    The court of public opinion may have a verdict on this, whenever they are asked!

  • @ John Barrett Well, I always put my complete faith and trust in Police Scotland and their great and in imitable Chief Cameron Miekelson , John. Always recommended to raise a chuckle in these trying times even if they need a translator Down South

    BBC Scotland – Scot Squad, The Chief’s Election Interviews … › … › Scot Squad › The Chief’s Election Interviews
    Video for cameron miekelson▶ 0:31
    27 Nov 2019
    … The Chief’s Election Interviews. Chief Cameron Miekelson interviews Scotland’s political leaders …

  • To play the great Miekelson with Willie, Nicola et al :

    Ctrl and left click over whole of second para to end. Put into google search and then play. If you can’t do it, you’re a Bam.

  • Matt
    Sorry not to get back to you earlier. I’ve been spending some time talking to my family, reading and looking at the utterly demoralising effects of lockdown. The alternatives are offering more support to people in the vulnerable groups and not taking our lead from the untrustworthy dictatorship that runs China. I do not believe shutting down economic activity, putting great chunks of the population under house arrest, damaging families, wrecking small businesses, denting our social structures and removing liberty for a virus that as of March 19 is no longer considered a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID) should be tenable. I think what has happened is appalling and far reaching. If this crisis has taught me one thing it’s that liberty is not an abstract idea and that, despite being opposed to the concept of the EU, I am a liberal. I just can’t agree that what is happening in this country is in anyway proportional to the threat. Anyway, I’m going to put my headphones on, get a little tipsy, and listen to some tunes .

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Apr '20 - 9:19pm

    Enjoy your gin, Glenn. Great post again! But we have been warned, and we liberals have a continuing fight on our hands now. (On a lighter note, good to know that there is now an issue on which you and I, and even I would guess Frankie, can agree!)

  • @Glenn

    I am afraid you are putting far too much emphasis on covid-19 no longer being defined as “High Consequence Infectious Diseases (HCID)” in order to remain in this definition certain criteria has to met and if just one criterion is no longer met it loses the definition
    In the case of covid19, it loses criterion on
    It is usually difficult to recognise and detect quickly
    It has a high mortality rate.
    However, a 1-2% mortality rate is still high and far higher than seasonal flu

    That is why it was classified as High Consequence Infectious Diseases (HCID) in January when less was known but lost the category in March when more became known.

    It does not change the seriousness of this virus and the devastating consequences that it can have on the NHS and the number of lives that will be lost either directly or indirectly by this virus.

    I believe if the Government would have acted sooner and had better monitoring in place when this virus first showed it’s head in China, closed flights from known hotspots, had better contract tracing and putting people in isolation who had either contracted the virus or been in contact with someone who had the virus, then maybe we would not have reached the stage where we are at and had to resort to lockdown.
    Unfortunately, that did not happen and so we have no alternative for more draconian measures to now play catch up.

    But my question to to you is I suppose, what is your position on what the Government should do if the situation ever happens again, do you support aggressive contact tracing, putting people into isolation who have tested positive, closing borders to known hotspots?

  • @Glenn

    I just watched coronavirus into the red zone on sky one and it is pretty harrowing, to say the least.
    Filmed in Italy and showing the extent of the current crisis in some of the top Hospitals in Italy, the sheer devastation that is occurring is unimaginable and if these Hospitals, some of the best in the world and far better than ours are not managing to cope, how on earth is the NHS.

    The Doctors are pleading with the UK and other countries to take this seriously and lockdown, pleading with them not to become Italy, why on earth would they do this if it was not the case?
    I know you have an innate trust of the Government, as do I most of the time, but why do you suppose that medics across the world and indeed our front line medics in the NHS would be pleading with us to stay indoors protect lives and the NHS if it was not the case, what would they have to gain?

    And I have to ask, why on earth would Prime Ministers and Presidents across the world be taken the actions that they are and costing trillions to the world economies unless this was absolutely serious and necessary, what would be the motivation behind it?

  • Matt
    We’re not going to agree. We’ve trashed the economy, wrecked businesses, stamped on liberty, tried to stem one health problem by creating others and the effects are going to last decades. About 600,000 people UK die every year in the UK, that’s a rate of about 1600 a day, we’re not testing, where we are testing we are attributing every death of someone with Covid-19 as a death of Covid-19, people with mild symptoms are told to self isolate and so we don’t know what percentage of the population is at serious risk or even whether or not the death rate is going to be significantly higher than in an average year. What we do know is that we live in a country where employment is heavily reliant on the service industries and they’ve been closed down indefinitely.

  • @Glenn

    I know we are not to agree and that is fine, I was just wondering if you could offer an explanation then on why the NHS is calling for what they are?


    Why would governments across the world be taking the action that they are costing trillions of pounds to world economies unless this was serious? You must have a theory of why they are doing it then

  • Matt
    Governments are not all doing the same thing. Japan isn’t, Sweden isn’t, South Korea did something different and I have no idea whether or not South American nations are uniformly responding in the same way. I think what happened is that China responded in the way it did first and that became the basis for the approach taken by a lot of governments. But I would point China already suppresses parts of it population as a matter of course and does not have western hygiene standards. The point about the “wet markets” people miss is that they have poor sanitation, lack places to wash hands and even the vegetables are sprayed with water to make them look shiny. China is also a single party state with a very authoritarian system. I suspect, some people think that this means its response is a dispassionate act of hard logic. But to me it just looks like a dictatorship, reacting like a you would expect a dictatorship to react and it is trying to project an image of control to the nations its industries rely on. After this is over China has got serious problems, because the just in time supply lines have been cut and are going to be cut further, especially by the US. America will way up, as will others, the cost of Chinese imports v the advantages of moving production elsewhere and taking as much back a possible. The point being that China’s response could be the action of leadership facing serious economic driven decline power and is about trying to reassure its investors/customers, rather than primarily a public health measure.

  • @Glenn

    I thank you for your engaging, but I am really interested to hear why you think the UK Government and the vast majority of the countries around the world are taking the actions that they are taking and costing trillions of pounds to the world economies unless this was a serious situation, you must have a theory of why that is.

    I am not talking about China and Japan, or even Sweden.

    I am talking about the UK, Australia, the US, Canada, Newzealnd most of Europe, India just to name a few.

  • Matt
    I’ve told you why. Governments copy each other, often without fully considering the differences in the societies they serve. China reacted the way it did. Some people in positions of power said “Ooh, that’s proper leadership. China’s dead hard. We should do that”. Throw in ramped up hysteria and demands that something should be done, even if it is the wrong something. Add this to a need to look in control and we are now where we are. I honestly don’t think any answer I give is going to satisfy you or even register as an answer.

  • @Glenn

    Its not that your answer does not satisfy me, it just does not make any sense to me.

    I can not imagine the UK Government, especially a Conservative one at that, copying China for the sake of it.
    Tories would not be wiping of trillions of pounds off the economy, decimating jobs, decimating pension funds all of which hits their core voters badly. It would not be going on the biggest round of socialism ever seen. Unless there was a good reason too.
    These are the very people that the Tory party rely on for donors.
    They certainly would not be doing it to copy an authoritarian state like China for the sake of it.

    I do not buy at all that this is just a power grab of civil liberties. The Government would not be doing it to the tunes of billions of pounds and untold damage for a power grab, that makes no sense economically at all.

    We are already hearing that we are preparing for the 2nd wave.
    Mr Hancock today suggested the nationwide lockdown will last until the end of April at least because the UK needs to put in place a massive test and trace programme before normal life can start to resume I imagine this is going to mean some pretty hard surveillance measures for tracing and contact tracing. I imagine that is also going to be contentious for many Liberals but surely people must accept that in order to save lives and the economy (we can not afford to go through this again) some pretty tough measures and compromises is going to have to come into place here

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Apr '20 - 5:03pm

    The police are entitled to make enquiries so have a good reason. I can’t see how driving increases your risk of giving or receiving Coronavirus. Car parks seem dangerous and numbers in them will need to be reduced. Perhaps signs might help with government guidelines in large print. Being happy might reduce the risk.

  • Phil Beesley 4th Apr '20 - 12:24pm

    matt: “I can not imagine the UK Government, especially a Conservative one at that, copying China for the sake of it.”

    I’d go a bit further, Matt. I am sure that civil servants and their technical advisors observed what was reported from China with a massive dose of salt. Owing to state censorship there, we don’t fully know how group isolation was applied, voluntarily and by force, or how health care was administered.

    It is much more likely that UK observers were/are looking to Italy to see which measures are effective.

    Bear in mind that ‘authorities’ incline towards theatrical behaviour when first addressing a problem they don’t understand. Think about the response to terrorist incidents when the government sends armed people in uniform to airport terminals. In response to an invisible threat recently, police officers have been sent out with poor instructions to ‘do something’, and unsurprisingly some of them do the wrong thing.

    We should respond to theatre with tolerance and grace. We have to cut some slack whilst new norms are established. We should apply deeper thought to how short term regulations may create a less liberal society in the longer term.

    A few commenters have suggested taking a note of the name and shoulder number of police officers who act over zealously. The problem with this suggestion is that any act which might be interpreted as obstreperous, however polite it seems to you, may aggravate the situation. Make a mental note of shoulder numbers rather than being seen to write them down. [c.f. police officers removing shoulder numbers when attending demonstrations.] There are still some people who regard the police as a ‘force’ rather than a ‘service’.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Apr '20 - 7:24pm

    Cats can catch the virus from other cats. What enforcement is appropriate?
    A tiger in Bronx, New York was recently infected by her zoo keeper.
    Hope she gets better.

  • What has recently come to my attention, due to my job, is that Legionnaires Disease has taken a back seat to Covid 19.
    There have been several instances in the USA of people presenting at hospitals with both these diseases, which severely confuses diagnosis and, as you can imagine, reduces the patient’s chances of a good result.
    This disease is due to poor water hygiene that seems to be due to buildings being shut down during the pandemic and therefore reduced maintenance. I don’t know if the NHS has had this experience.
    Although non-transmissible person to person, it has a high fatality rate and, combined with C19, will be even deadlier.

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