Coronavirus: Drone police in Peak District condemned for 'shaming' people during lockdown

Joe Gamp
·Contributor, Yahoo News UK

A superintendent has defended his force for publishing drone footage of people walking in the Peak District during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Derbyshire Police filmed people in pairs rambling in the Curbar Edge area on Wednesday and said travelling to remote areas for exercise did not count as “essential travel”.

The 90-second clip, shot by the force's drone unit and posted to Twitter, showed people walking their dogs and taking photos.

Superintendent Steve Pont defended the force’s actions under the government’s new partial lockdown measures, claiming people “were finding excuses or loopholes” to go outside.

(DERBYSHIRE POLICE)
Derbyshire Police defended footage of people in pairs rambling in the Curbar Edge area of the Peak District. (DERBYSHIRE POLICE)

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We wanted to reinforce the message of stay home and a number of people aren’t staying home, they’re finding excuses or loopholes, reasons not to stay home – and we just wanted to illustrate that this is the wrong thing to do.

“We’re here to apply the law that the Government makes. If people drive in their cars on the roads and if they go walking on the clifftops there’s the potential for accidents.”

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world
Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area
6 charts and maps that explain how COVID-19 is spreading

He added: “The point is that the Government legislation said if you go out to take exercise you should make your time away from home as short as possible, it didn’t say as short as possible unless you want to go for a drive in the Peak District.”

The force tweeted the footage with the caption: “Despite posts yesterday highlighting issues of people still visiting the #PeakDistrict despite government guidance, the message is still not getting through.

“@DerPolDroneUnit have been out at beauty spots across the county, and this footage was captured at #CurbarEdge last night.”

Read more: Boris Johnson coronavirus: MPs from all parties send best wishes to PM

David Gauke said called the tweet “badly misjudged” and pointed out that the people in the footage were staying at a safe distance from one another.

UK civil liberties group Big Brother Watch branded the move "sinister" and "counter-productive".

A statement from the group said: "The new regulations in place as of yesterday do not prohibit driving to a place for the purpose of exercise."

Read more: Coronavirus: Birmingham Airport could be used as emergency mortuary

On Thursday, Derbyshire Police also broke up a large group near the Snake Pass enjoying a picnic and posted pictures of officers dispersing a group.

The force tweeted: “Large groups gathering enjoying picnics, kebabs and shisha.

“Visitors from Manchester, Sheffield and Ipswich. Dispersed with no resistance but seriously this is not social distancing and staying home.”

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newslet

Watch the latest videos from Yahoo News