People flouting lockdown rules in Harrogate could face arrest and fines under new powers

Police in Harrogate have warned new enforcement powers will be used if people are caught flouting the coronavirus lockdown rules this weekend.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 1:29 pm
Updated Friday, 27th March 2020, 1:30 pm

North Yorkshire Police are stepping up their patrols at the district's beauty spots where they are calling on people not to travel to for exercise or any other non-essential reason.

This is after the Home Office announced on Thursday that members of the public who break the new laws will face arrest and fines.

Officers have been given powers to tell people to go home, leave or disperse an area - and those who refuse could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Police are stepping up patrols and asking motorists if their journey is essential. Photo: Philip Sedgwick

Second-time offenders could then be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.

Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

Officers from Harrogate's Neighbourhood Policing Team said they have already had to explain to a "large number" of people at reservoirs and other beauty spots that their actions were putting lives at risk.

The force's chief inspector, Ed Haywood-Noble, said: “Earlier this week, the Government announced significant changes to our way of life, instructing us to stay at home and only make essential journeys.

“We do not want to see people travelling to beauty spots in rural areas for exercise or any other reason. In particular, do not arrange to meet up with family or friends. Instead, take your exercise near your home, with members of your household.

“And whether you’re in a car or on a motorcycle, do not go out ‘just for a drive’ or a ride in the countryside. What if you break down, or have a crash? You are putting lives at risk."

Richard Flinton, chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council and chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, said: “We cannot urge people strongly enough to follow the Government ruling on travel. People need to stay at home because if you travel further than you should, this will only serve to accelerate the rate of infection and more people will die.

“If people want to walk and exercise they need to do this from their own front door, once a day for a limited period, observing social distancing and keeping two metres away from anybody they are not living with.

“The message from Government and from all the agencies who care for people in North Yorkshire could not be clearer. We need to protect our communities and if we have an influx of visitors travelling to the coast and beauty spots as last weekend more lives will be lost.

“These are grave and extremely challenging times and we must all play our part in meeting the challenges in the right way.”

Andy Wilson, chief executive of the North York Moors National Park, added: “Do not turn a beauty spot into a virus swap. Follow Government guidance and only travel for essential purposes - which does not include exercise. This is the best way to protect everyone from both town and country.

"Stay home, exercise near home, protect yourselves and reduce the burden on the NHS.”

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter