Clayton-le-Woods man "feels like a criminal" after lockdown walk on Ainsdale beach leads to fine
A Chorley man says he is going to battle a hefty fine imposed on him after a magistrate ruled he breached lockdown restrictions by driving to a beach.
Tom Hedley, 21, of Clayton-le-Woods, was stopped by two officers after driving to Ainsdale near Southport with his friend to walk on the beach last November, when the county was in the grip of the start of the second national lockdown.
Initially he says both men were issued with a £200 fine by post, and while his friend paid it, he did not because he did not believe he had done anything wrong and intended to appeal it.
Mr Hedley claims he did not receive any further correspondence until being made aware a hearing had taken place in his absence in May at a magistrates' court, which resulted in his fine being increased to £1,760.
Government rules stated people were not permitted to be outside of the area they lived without reasonable excuse, but people were still allowed to engage in outdoor recreation with someone not part of the same household or support bubble.
Mr Hedley wants to appeal on the basis that it was guidance rather than law about how local people should remain local, and no actual legal direction was specified about the distance residents could travel from Lancashire in order to engage in exercise.
Ainsdale is around 22 miles from his home.
He told the Post: "To be honest I thought nothing of this until I found out about the case.
"I honestly didn't know anything about the hearing. I knew I had been fined the £200 and didn't pay the fine because I wanted to appeal it. I thought there would be some way
"I don't believe I did anything and I thought once someone else looked at it, and looked at the rules they would agree I had done nothing wrong.
"I have never committed another offence so I am confused how it all works.
"I do a lot of work in Southport and had worked there throughout the pandemic.
"I don't drive, but thought if I can travel to Southport for work on public transport why can't I walk down a beach with noone on it? There was not one other person in the entire area, the only two people were the two officers who approached us from quite far away.
"I didn't finish work until 5.30pm.
"I had stuck to the rules throughout the whole first lockdown. The second one they gave a specific list of things you could do and it said visit a park or beach for recreation.
"The police officer said: 'You are not following the Government guidance", but if something is only guidance is it law?
I never received any paperwork about the case, no-one called me and I have never had summons that I know of so I was not able to object to the case.
"I've never been arrested or committed a criminal offence and don't know anything about how a court even works
"I didn't know it was legal for a single person to sit there and decide if I'm guilty within three minutes."
"It's like I've been branded as a criminal for going out for a walk.”
Mr Hedley added: "If they can tell me what I did wrong I would happily take the fine - if they can pinpoint what was illegal and that I was putting people in danger I would happily pay the fine.
He is now seeking advice.
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