Two women received £ 200 each for driving five miles to walk in a local natural area, with officials claiming their Starbucks were classified as a picnic.
Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, both 27, say they were surrounded by police when they arrived separately at Foremark Dam in Derbyshire on Wednesday (January 6th).
They say they believe they follow the instructions to stay put to exercise, and both live just ten minutes away in nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics.
But they were stunned to have their rights “read” by cops, after which they were fined for violating the lock.
Derbyshire police defended the decision to fine the women, saying driving for exercise was not “in the spirit” of the blockade.
Beautician Jessica said she thought there was a murder when she saw a police van, a patrol car and several employees at the entrance to the beauty spot.
She said: “When my business is closed, the walk is the only time I really leave the house to do some exercise.
“He may only be busy walking around my area, so I decided to go for a drive to the tank because I knew it would be less crowded.
“If nothing else, I thought I was more responsible, and I thought I was staying at the local level, as management suggests.
“We went with separate cars, and we thought it was more reasonable – but the police obviously didn’t think so.
“By the time we entered, there was a police van, a police car and there were a lot of police there – we thought there must have been a murder or something.
“I honestly thought something big had happened because the place is usually so quiet.
“The next thing is that my car is surrounded by the police and they start questioning us as soon as we both step outside.
“One of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend, thinking ‘This must be a joke.’
“I pointed out that we came with separate cars, even parked in two places and even brought our own drinks with us.
“He said, ‘You can’t do this because it’s classified as a picnic.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“I take the pandemic very seriously because my brother is a doctor working in the Covid ward in London.
“Both my parents had coronavirus, so I try to be as careful as possible.
“I do it on my own, but my business is closed and I’m trying to fill my time.
“I suffer from anxiety and when you walk by the water, you feel much better. The only thing I have to look forward to is planning a walk with my friend.
“I was so shaken up after that. The fact that they read my rights. I thought, ‘Will I go to jail for a walk?’ “
“I’m not a criminal, but we were treated like criminals and that really made me feel like people who have been wrongly arrested and questioned by the police.
“It wasn’t a pleasant situation to be and that made me protect myself from the police in the future. I’m sure not everyone is like that, but it was a really horrible experience.”
Eliza, who works as a British Airways cabin crew and does make-up, said she was “stunned” by the fine.
She added: “The very sight of a police officer is pretty scary for some people anyway, and we really didn’t expect them to turn to us and tell us we were doing something wrong.
“We don’t want to get away if we break the rule, but it seems a little unfair that you could be fined for something so vague.”
The guidelines for the current lock say that people can travel for exercise as long as they are in their “local area”, but the legislation does not set a maximum distance that people can travel for exercise.
Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner told the BBC: “There is no law banning exercise travel.
“The guidelines are not legally binding and the police have no power to enforce them, unless reflected in the lock-in provisions, which in this case are not.”
Andrew Bridgen, an MP from Northwest Leicestershire, tweeted his support for women and said: “I am concerned that my constituents are facing fines from the Derbyshire police for exercising in what I would classify as a local area.
“It is important to use common sense when applying the guidelines, and the fine, not the issuance of guidelines, seems too zealous.”
A Derbyshire police spokesman said: “These guidelines state that while you are able to exercise, you must do so locally – defined as being in a village, town or city.
“Of course, we understand that there may be good reasons to travel outside these exercise zones, but driving to a place – where exercise could easily approach a person’s home – is clearly not in the spirit of national efforts to reduce travel. reduce the possible spread of the disease and reduce the number of deaths.
“Each employee will use their professional judgment on a case-by-case basis, but people should expect to be challenged and understand the clear reasons why they may be asked about their movements, given the critical situation the NHS is currently facing.”