What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for going outside? And can police force their way into your house if they suspect rules are being broken?
Under the rules in England, you must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law.
The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:
- Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
- Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
- Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
- Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend.
- Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
- Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, and not outside your local area. The Government advises you should only leave for exercise once a day, but the law does not put a limit on this.
- Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).
- You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
- Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.
There are further reasonable excuses.
For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.
In Scotland, coronavirus legislation gives police the power to force entry into people’s homes if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ rules are being broken.
However, in England, they can only enter in ‘exceptional circumstances’, which includes if they believe someone inside is infectious.
Otherwise, they will require a warrant.
Police are now focusing more on enforcing the lockdown rules rather than explaining them to people in efforts to arrest the spiralling number of coronavirus cases across the country.
Derbyshire Police faced criticism yesterday for taking the lockdown crackdown too far after officers swooped on two friends for driving just seven miles to go for a walk at a beauty spot.
As a result, the ‘intimidating’ force is reviewing its Covid operations after getting clarification about the rules, with West Mercia Police also mocked for threatening to fine people £200 for playing in the snow.
Nevertheless, the message from government sources today is that police should be enforcing rather than explaining rules, now nearly 10 months since the very first restrictions came into effect.
This was echoed by Wiltshire Police’s chief constable, Kier Pritchard, who wrote in the Gazette and Herald: ‘Although we will continue to police with consent and in a proportionate way, my officers will move to enforcement much quicker when confronted with people clearly breaching the rules.
‘Up until now, police forces have focused on engagement, reinforcing the messaging within our communities and encouraging the public to comply in the first instance, only reverting to enforcement when we are faced with deliberate or repeated breaches.
‘We will continue to engage with our communities but my officers will quickly move to enforcement against those who are flagrantly breaching the rules.’
The shift in approach comes as Boris Johnson last night begged families to stay at home as the Covid-19 death toll hit a grim new record – with the Government launching a new campaign blitz to scare people into obeying lockdown rules.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has appeared in adverts urging us to stay at home as the new variant of the virus rips across the country.
Two terrifying new posters also show a patient dying in hospital and a healthcare worker wearing full PPE, warning Britons: ‘If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.’
It comes as Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London who advises the SAGE committee of experts, said there had been 90% compliance with the national lockdown but that busier streets and public transport were a result of government guidance.
She told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘One of the explanations for that is this is quite a lax lockdown because we’ve still got a lot of household contact, people go in and out of other people’s houses if they’re a cleaner, a non-essential trade person or a nanny.
‘We also have mass gatherings in terms of religous events and nurseries being open, and you have this wide definition of critical workers so we have 30-50% of classes full up at the moment and very busy public transport going to and from these things.
‘It’s definitely too lax. If you compare ourselves with March we have the winter season and the virus survives for longer in the cold plus people spend more time indoors and we now know aerosol transmission which happens indoors is a very big source of transmission for this virus.
‘Secondly, we have this new variant which is 50-70% more infectious. You put those two things together alongisde the NHS being in crisis, we should have a stricter, rather than a less strict lockdown we had in March.’
However, Prof Michie said to get people to adhere to the rules, a more positive approach needed to be taken rather than stricter enforcement.
‘What we know from this pandemic is what really motivates people is knowing there’s a really serious threat, knowing that what they do can make a difference and also knowing what they do can protect other people and their communities.
‘The behavioural committee of SAGE says consistently what we need is more support and enablement for people to adhere, not punishment. For example one area where there’s really poor adherence, and has been throughout, is having to isolate at home for what is now 10 days.
‘Our own data shows only 30% of people with symptoms are staying at home. The reasons given are they may have caring responsibilities outside the house, they may need to get provisions, or importantly, they have to go out to work to get income.
‘What you need to be effective is have people who people trust and identify with. Yes, experts and scientists are trusted a lot more than politicians but we should also think about people from people’s own communities that are respected, particularly young men who find adherence most challenging, and think about who they identify with and respect, and that’s often sports personalities, singers, people from film and television.
‘We should be much more creative and imaginative about the kind of people who are speaking out.’
Wiltshire Police chief constable Kier Pritchard warned that officers would be stepping up enforcement over the coming weeks
The Broseley and Much Wenlock division of West Mercia Police tweeted last night: ‘There have been two reports of snowballs being thrown last night between 11 and 11.30pm.
‘This is obviously not a justifiable reason to be out of your house, this behaviour is likely to result in a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice for breaking the lockdown rules.’
Meanwhile, Derbyshire Police fined beautician Jessica Allen and her British Airways flight attendant friend Eliza Moore £200 each for driving for a socially distanced stroll at Foremark Reservoir, which despite not being her nearest park is only 10 minutes from her house.
Ms Allen, 27, said she assumed ‘someone had been murdered’ when she saw a police van, a police car and several officers at the entrance of the open space.
‘It was a short journey and only took about ten minutes,’ she said. I genuinely thought someone had been murdered or a child had gone missing; the place is normally so quiet.
‘The next thing, my car is surrounded. I got out of my car thinking ”There’s no way they’re coming to speak to us”. Straight away they start questioning us. One of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend thinking ”This must be a joke”.
‘I said we had come in separate cars, even parked two spaces away and even brought our own drinks with us. He said ”You can’t do that as it’s classed as a picnic”.
‘Crossing into a different county seems to have caused the issue but the border into Derbyshire is only a minute away from my house.’
Ms Moore, who is 27 and alongside her work for BA runs a make-up business, said she was ‘stunned at the time’ so did not challenge police and gave her details so they could send a fixed penalty notice.
‘Just seeing a police officer anyway is quite scary for some people and we were really not expecting to be approached and to be told we were doing something wrong,’ she said.
‘We don’t want to get away with it if we have broken the rule, but it seems a bit unfair that you can be fined on something that’s so vague.’
The pair were also told their cups of Starbucks peppermint tea, which they bought at a drive-thru, were not allowed because they were ‘classed as a picnic’.
Guidance for the current lockdown says people can travel for exercise ‘as long as it is in their local area’, but does not specify how far people can travel.
Derbyshire Police insisted the distance was ‘at the discretion’ of individual officers and the trip was ‘not in the spirit of the rules’.
The force has previously been criticised for its heavy-handed approach to enforcing the restrictions, and in March released drone footage of dog walkers in the Peak District in an attempt to ‘shame’ them.
And in March, the force dumped black dye into a famous blue lagoon in Harpur Hill near Buxton to prevent Instagrammers from posing for snaps during the lockdown.
It comes as police forces nationwide upped up their enforcement of Covid regulations.
In Aberdeen, two policeman knocked on a family’s front door after complaints from a neighbour and stormed inside as a woman shouted ‘this is my house, get out of my house’ and children screamed in the background.
Two women, aged 18 and 48, and a 43-year-old man were charged in connection with assaulting police officers and threatening and abusive behaviour.
The footage immediately sparked controversy, with critics accusing the police of ‘oppressive’ behaviour for storming into a private house – while others argued they were just trying to enforce the Covid rules.
At Euston, officers were seen stopping passengers this morning to ask where they were going. Barrister Alex Wright tweeted: ‘Good to see lockdown being taken seriously, but a sad sight that I’d have dreamed of seeing in London.’
Snowdonia National Park has now closed all its car parks to visitors to ‘protect our communities and the NHS’, as officials slammed the public for ‘disregarding’ the law.
In an attempt to clarify the guidance, Leicester City Council’s public health director Professor Ivan Browne today urged residents to visit ‘your nearest park, not your nicest park’, Leicester Live reported.
Neighbourhood officers for the Broseley and Much Wenlock tweeted on Thursday night: ‘There have been two reports of snowballs being thrown last night between 11 and 11.30pm’
Jessica Allen (left) and Eliza Moore were stopped by officers from Derbyshire Police while they were enjoying a socially distanced walk at a Derbyshire beauty spot
Ms Allen (left) and Ms Moore (right) were taking a stroll at Foremark Reservoir when they were surrounded by Derbyshire Police, read their rights and hit with £200 fines each
The pair (pictured is Ms Allen, left; and Ms Moore, right) were also told their cups of Starbucks peppermint tea, which they bought at a drive-thru, were not allowed because they were ‘classed as a picnic’
Ms Allen, a beautician from nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch, said she assumed ‘someone had been murdered’ when she saw a police van, a police car and several officers at the entrance of the open space. This map shows the proximity between her house and the reservoir
All car parks in Snowdonia National Park have now been closed to visitors. Pictured is a police car patrolling the beauty spot last night
A police officer stopped a group of three walkers as they headed through Birmingham City Centre amid lockdown
A police officer took a picture of one man, as others crowded around another person while they were out walking in Birmingham City Centre despite coronavirus lockdown
The Met has vowed not to warn people any longer and punish them with fixed penalty notices of at £200 for first offences, and these officers were also stopping cars
Derbyshire police were pictured turning drivers away at a vehicle checkpoint at Calke Abbey, near Ticknall, yesterday afternoon
Police and Covid marshals patrol the seafront in Bournemouth this morning to spot any people breaking the rules
Police at Euston were this morning seen stopping passengers to ask where they were going. Barrister Alex Wright tweeted: ‘Good to see lockdown being taken seriously, but a sad sight that I’d have dreamed of seeing in London’
Priti Patel yesterday said it is ‘right’ for officers to confront Britons sat on park benches and argued that police should stop people and demand to know why they are outside their homes.
It came as police said they would fine people the first time if they are caught not wearing face coverings or being outside without a suitable reason.
As the crackdown continued –
- The UK has recorded its highest daily increase in the number of COVID-related deaths of the pandemic, with 1,325 fatalities;
- Data showed officers in England and Wales have handed out more than 30,000 fines under coronavirus laws since the start of the pandemic
- Police Scotland has issued more than 7,000 fixed penalty notices to people breaking coronavirus rules and made 550 arrests;
- West Mercia Police warned people could be handed Covid fines if they were caught playing in the snow;
- Police cars were patrolling the market square in Ely this morning to ensure people were obeying the rules, and benches were taped off;
- Police in Crewe fined two maskless men buying beer at 3am after they claimed to be ‘unaware’ about the lockdown;
- In Nottinghamshire, 20 gym-goers were seen fleeing the World Physiques Gym after police raided the venue;
- In Rochester, Kent, a pub was stripped of its licence and ordered to close after repeatedly holding lock-ins;
- In Eastbourne, a pub was fined £1,000 after a punter was found hiding in the toilets after an illegal drinking session;
- Furious pub owner has posted a sign on his parish hall notice board telling villager to ‘f*** off’, after being reported to the police;
- Brits abroad were told they had five days to come home or would not be able to return without a negative Covid test;
- Boris Johnson vowed to ramp up Britain’s vaccination drive and use Army to deliver 200,000 doses a day;PM slammed Covid deniers and told them to ‘grow up’ while NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens slammed their ‘lies’ about hospitals being empty;
- Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has declared a ‘major incident’ over the increase of Covid-19 cases in the capital’s hospitals, saying: ‘The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.’
Speaking after her confrontation with police at the reservoir, Jessica Allen said she is taking the pandemic ‘very seriously’ as her brother is a doctor working on a Covid ward in London, and her parents have both had coronavirus.
She said she drove to the reservoir as she knew it would be less crowded than near her house. ‘I’m self-employed but my business is closed and I’m trying to fill my time,’ she said.
‘I suffer from anxiety and when you go by the water you feel so much better. I live on my own for five days a week and the only thing I’ve got to look forward to is planning a walk with my friend.’
She said brush with the law was ‘very intimidating’ and had left her feeling scared of the police.
What can police do and what CAN’T they do to enforce Covid rules?
If I get stopped by police, do I need to answer their questions?
Police have the power to stop you in a public place and ask for your name, where you are going and what you are doing. This is known as ‘Stop and Account’. In most circumstances, you don’t have to stay with the officer or answer their questions.
The police also have a power to stop vehicles for any reason. Again, they can ask you to account for yourself, but they can’t generally force you to stay or take further action against you unless they have good reason for doing so.
However, refusing to answer the police’s questions (for example, about who you are gathering with) could give them reason to believe you are breaching the new regulations. This is because it is now a criminal offence to breach the rules in the Tier you are in.
What is reasonable force?
Under the new rules, police can use reasonable force to remove you from a gathering if they believe that you are gathering in a way which is banned by the Tier rules. They can only do this if it’s necessary and proportionate to do so.
They can also use reasonable force if you resist arrest, or if it’s necessary to prevent a crime being committed. These powers come from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (known as PACE). ‘Reasonable force’ means using only as much force as they need in the circumstances. It must be the minimum – no more.
Can I be arrested?
The police can arrest you if they have good reason to believe you might have committed a crime – and that arresting you is necessary.
What I can do if I believe the police have acted unfairly?
If you’re unhappy with the way the police have treated you, you can make a complaint.
‘I was so shook up afterwards,’ she said. ‘The fact they read my rights. I thought ‘Am I going to prison for going on a walk?’
‘I’m not a criminal but we were treated as if we were criminals and it really made me feel for those people who are wrongly arrested and questioned by police, because it wasn’t a nice situation to be in.’
Derbyshire Police said in a statement: ‘Driving to a location – where exercise could easily have been taken closer to a person’s home – 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.
‘Each officer will use their professional judgement on a case-by-case basis, however, 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 currently finds itself in.’
‘It is up to each individual officer on a case-by-case basis to decide what is reasonable as the legislation does not proscribe a distance.’
The College of Policing said: ‘In overall terms police officers across England and Wales will be using their discretion and professional judgement about whether or not someone has a reasonable excuse for travelling for exercise and being outside the place where they are living.’
Local MP Andrew Bridgen tweeted: ‘I’m concerned that my constituents are facing fines from Derbyshire Police for taking exercise in what I would class as the local area. It is important that common sense is used when enforcing guidelines, and a fine rather than issuing guidance appears to be rather over zealous.’
It came as a video taken in Aberdeen at 11.20pm on Wednesday before being shared online showed a police officer standing inside the hallway of a home as a woman was held back by another man.
She said: ‘My house. That is bullying. This is my house. Get out of my house. I did not ask you in here.’
A young boy can be seen in the video as the woman’s daughter said: ‘Just stop it mum’.
A police spokesman said: ‘We received a complaint from a member of the public regarding a breach of coronavirus regulations at a property in Aberdeen, around 11.20pm on Wednesday, 6 January, 2021.
‘Officers attended and two women (aged 18 and 48) and a 43-year-old man were charged in connection with assaulting police officers and threatening and abusive behaviour and will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.’
Just hours after Home Secretary Priti Patel threw her support behind the crackdown yesterday, it emerged that officers in Birmingham questioned a couple with pushchair to ask what business they had in town.
In Ely, Cambridgeshire, disturbing pictures highlighting the harsh reality of lockdown 3.0 showed town-centre seats taped off to stop people using them.
Snowdonia National Park took the decision to close its car parks yesterday after an ‘increase’ in the number of people disregarding Covid rules.
Five police officers surround a man at Hammersmith Tube Station in west London yesterday as part of a crackdown on people shunning lockdown
A police officer wearing a disposable face mask stopped a walker in an orange jacket to question their reason for being outside their home during lockdown in Birmingham City Centre
One MailOnline reader sent a picture of these taped off benches in Ely, Cambridgeshire, claiming they are not allowed to be used because of the pandemic
Two police officers knocked on a door in Aberdeen at 11.20pm on Wednesday after a member of the public reported a breach of coronavirus restrictions
How Derbyshire Police sent drones to film dog walkers and died a blue lagoon BLACK in heavy-handed Covid crackdown
Derbyshire Constabulary has been behind a series of controversial actions during lockdown.
Its drone unit filmed walkers in the Peak District on March 26, three days after restrictions began.
It claimed the footage showed the stay at home message which was then in force was ‘still not getting through’.
Officers also put black dye in the Blue Lagoon, near Buxton, to deter swimming.
At the start of the lockdown in March, Chief constable Goodman defended his officer’s tactics and blamed the government, saying the emergency laws were ‘unclear’.
He also defended using drones to shame walkers, saying the methods were ‘slightly unusual’ but claimed other forces were implementing ‘more draconian measures’.
‘It is only in the event of people acting completely stupidly and not taking that advice that we have to use our powers,’ he told the Derby Telegraph.
Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption likened Derbyshire’s activities to a ‘police state’.
Officials said people could only take part in exercise that started and finished in their own home.
Nigel Harrison, Temporary North Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable said: ‘We understand that people want to go outside to enjoy the mountains and snow, however this is a national emergency and we will continue to work with our National Park colleagues to ensure that Welsh Government restrictions around essential travel are adhered to.’
The World Physiques Gym in Mansfield was raided by police on Monday, with one person at the venue fined £1,000 and another £200 for breaching Covid guidelines.
In Rochester, licencing officers forced the closure of the Hop and Rye pub after finding six people drinking on November 28 last year during the second lockdown.
It came police spotted two maskless men getting out of a cab in Crewe at 3am yesterday before going into a shop and buying a case of beer.
When approached by Cheshire Police officers they said they were ‘unaware’ of the lockdown and the way coronavirus is spread.
Under the national lockdown rules face masks must be worn in shops unless medically exempt from doing so.
A Cheshire Police spokesman said: ‘Officers had to report two men for breaching the lockdown regulations yesterday.
‘The officers were on patrol in Crewe at 3am when they spotted two men leaving a taxi without a face covering.
‘On leaving the shop, the officers approached the men to engage and explain the lockdown regulations while also reiterating the importance of wearing face coverings.
‘The men said they were not aware that a lockdown was in place and were also unaware of how their actions could result in the transmission of coronavirus to others.
Derbyshire Police has previously been criticised for its heavy-handed approach to enforcing the restrictions. In March, officers put black dye into the blue lagoon in Hupur Hill, Buxton in order to deter visitors
Derbyshire Constabulary drone unit controversially filmed walkers in the Peak District in March as part of its ‘stay at home’ message
Covid fines: How many were issued in your area?
Here is the breakdown of fines issued by police forces in England between March 27 and December 20 for breaches of coronavirus laws.
– Avon and Somerset: 610
– Bedfordshire: 321
– British Transport Police (BTP): 452
– Cambridgeshire: 280
– Cheshire: 440
– City of London: 86
– Cleveland: 313
– Cumbria: 941
– Derbyshire: 301
– Devon and Cornwall: 1,233
– Dorset: 1,010
– Durham: 253
– Essex: 505
– Gloucestershire: 279
– Greater Manchester: 2,183
– Hampshire: 567
– Hertfordshire: 380
– Humberside: 169
– Kent: 270
– Lancashire: 1,506
– Leicestershire: 618
– Lincolnshire: 367
– Merseyside: 1,411
– Metropolitan Police: 1,761
– Ministry of Defence Police: 37
– Norfolk: 459
– North Yorkshire: 1,484
– Northamptonshire: 848
– Northumbria: 3,034
– Nottinghamshire: 906
– South Yorkshire: 673
– Staffordshire: 382
– Suffolk: 315
– Surrey: 573
– Sussex: 892
– Thames Valley: 965
– Warwickshire: 478
– West Mercia: 748
– West Midlands: 970
– West Yorkshire: 1,061
– Wiltshire: 208
Number of fines issued by police forces in Wales in the same time frame:
– BTP: 31
– Dyfed-Powys: 1,784
– Gwent: 295
– North Wales: 625
– South Wales: 856
‘The officers told the men they would be receiving a fixed penalty notice (FPN) each for their blatant breaching of the coronavirus rules.’
Exercise and essential journeys are the only reasons people are allowed to leave their homes.
In Crowborough, East Sussex, the local running track was closed today due to the ban on sports venues.
It came as a policeman was stopped by officers from his own force and asked where he was going during coronavirus lockdown.
Insp Lee Wiggan was on his way to a meeting at his police headquarters on Wednesday when he was asked to justify his movements by a police officer. It comes as cops said they will beef up the approach to lockdown breachers and impose £200 fines for anyone out without a valid reason.
Insp Wiggan – who covers the Ladywood East area of Birmingham – was on his way to the meeting in the city centre at the West Midlands Police Lloyd House HQ.
It came as a furious pub owner has posted a sign on his parish hall notice board telling villager to ‘f*** off’, after being reported to the police.
Keith Waterhouse, who owns the Badger’s Holt in Bridgetown, Somerset, posted the note on Bridgetown Village Hall after police officers visited him after reports he was breaching Covid-19 rules the previous day.
The note read: ‘Whoever the nasty, vindictive b****** is that reports me to the police for a completely incorrect breach of Covid rules, have the b******* to talk to me first and find out the truth.
Meanwhile, in London yesterday, one man who was stopped outside Hammersmith Tube station was asked to provide his name and address, which was written down and checked by officers, and the reason for his journey. The man was allowed to enter the station and continue travelling but refused to comment on whether he had been fined.
One officer told MailOnline: ‘We’re all over the area to enforce Covid laws and make sure that people are out for the right reasons. If you’re not local or don’t have a valid reason to be out, then you will be fined.’
But the police officer revealed that they had not issued a single fine as most people have been adhering to the rules. saying: ‘I think the message is getting through that you should only be out for essential reasons’.
In Birmingham yesterday, an exchange between two officers and a couple with a pushchair walking through the city centre only ended when the man produced cash from his pocket and told officers they were going to pay in money at a bank.
The pedestrian, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I don’t know why they picked on us.
‘They just asked why we were in the city centre and when I explained about the bank they left it at that. I think it’s just a matter of control really.’
The same pair of Police Community Support Officers then quizzed two men languishing by a shop doorway and threatened one with a £250 fine if he did not leave.
Isaac, 33 – who only provided his first name – said: ‘I have to come into the city centre to pick up my methadone from Boots pharmacy.
‘During the first lockdown they would give us two weeks worth so as to stop us making so many trips out but this time they are only giving it to last a day so we will have to be back tomorrow.
‘The officers were very fair because my friend is not really allowed in the city centre and could have been given a £250 fine on the spot and not just a warning.’
His friend Luke, 34 – who also declined to supply a surname – added: ‘Methadone is not something you want to be picking up in your local area so I come to the city centre.
‘These officers were fair. They told us not to hang around and to make our way home.
‘Another officer would have taken a much harder approach.’