Matt Hancock Backs Officers Who Fined Women £200 For Driving To A Walk Despite Police Launching Review Into Case
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended the decision to fine two women going for a walk at a reservoir near their home (PA)
Matt Hancock has backed the police officers who fined two women £200 after they drove a short distance to go for a walk.
The health secretary said the lockdown rules need to be enforced as “every flex can be fatal”.
It comes after an “urgent review” was launched into the case, which saw Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore surrounded by officers as they walked at a reservoir five miles from their homes.
Asked about the incident on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Hancock said: “I think the police have been doing an absolutely brilliant job in very difficult circumstances.”
Pressed on the specific case he replied: “Well absolutely I'm going to back the police, because the challenge here is that every flex can be fatal.
“You know, you might look at the rules and think, ‘Well it doesn't matter too much if I just do this or do that’, but these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they're the limit of what people should be doing.”
Asked to clarify if the current lockdown rules mean people who drive somewhere for a walk can expect to be fined by the police, the Cabinet minister said: “Obviously I don't know the specific circumstances, and I support the police in doing their very difficult job which they're doing very sensitively, but they're also right to take very seriously the rules we've brought in.
“You know, we haven't brought them in because we wanted to, we brought them in because we've had to, and every flexibility can be fatal.
“Because if you just say ‘I'll just flex this bit of the rules’, the problem is this virus is so contagious, it then passes on.
“And then, as we've seen, it is deadly, and there are people dying every day, and the NHS has got this enormous pressure on it like it's never seen before.”
Ms Allen and Ms Moore drove separately from Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire to Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday afternoon, but were stopped by officers and fined £200 each, an experience they described as "very intimidating"
And they said they were told the hot drinks they had brought along were not allowed as they were "classed as a picnic".
Initially Derbyshire Police defended its actions, saying driving to a location to exercise "is clearly not in the spirit of the national effort to reduce our travel, reduce the possible spread of the disease and reduce the number of deaths”.
But after intervention by Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa the force said it it would look again at the issue in light of new guidance from the National Police Chiefs Council.
The home secretary Priti Patel has, however, backed the decision to fine the pair, saying: “Enforcing these rules saves lives. It is as simple as that.
"Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.”
Mr Hancock also said that he did not want to criticise the public in general, telling Sky News "the majority are following the rules”, and data proves “more people are following the lockdown than the November lockdown”.
He added: "We are as you can see, with the police, enforcing stringently against the minority who don't follow the rules.
"But you're right I don't want to criticise the public because the majority of people are following the rules.
"That's what we want to see and we can see that the amount of people who are staying at home has increased, but we've all got to absolutely follow that guidance."