"Personal responsibility" should dictate what Lancashire residents do under lockdown

The rules about what constitutes a reasonable excuse for leaving home during the coronavirus lockdown are grey – but people should be guided by a sense of “personal responsibility”.

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 10:02 am

That was the message from a senior Lancashire Police officer after two national policing bodies issued guidance which appeared to contradict the way in which some forces had been interpreting the emergency regulations.

The National Police Chief’s Council and the College of Policing based their guidelines on examples cited by the Crown Prosecution Service.

They included a suggestion that it would reasonable for someone to drive a distance to the countryside to undertake their daily permitted period of exercise – provided more time is then spent exercising than it took to get there. The document also indicated that it would be acceptable to stop to eat lunch or take a break during a long walk.

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Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods

The suggestions have been criticised in some quarters for mixing the messages being given to the public.

But Lancashire’s deputy chief constable Terry Woods said he did not believe that they had done any harm.

“It spells out to us all that things are quite grey still – but what isn’t is that we have a personal responsibility to do the right thing.

“Last weekend I would have loved to have driven up to the Lakes and gone fell running. Would the rules have allowed me? It depends on your point of view – but did I [do it]? No, because it’s not the right thing to do.

“I think the message has landed and society’s behaviour has significantly changed and a lot of us have got used to it and accepted that we’re just going to operate differently until we’re told otherwise.

“I think the vast bulk of people will continue for however long it takes, but I do think there will come points where that goodwill is tested,” DCC Woods said.

He added that the public’s engagement with the lockdown was reflected in the fact that the Lancashire force was receiving hundreds of calls per day alerting officers to gatherings or parties.

DCC Woods said that many of those whom police were having to confront about flouting the lockdown were already known to officers.

The College of Policing said that its updated guidance did not preclude the need for police to consider each case individually, because the examples cited were not specifically set out in the law.

The government regulations which put the UK into lockdown on 23rd March state that people should only leave their homes if they have a “reasonable excuse” – including to obtain basic necessities; to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household; to seek medical assistance; and to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person.