Man feels like a ‘criminal’ after being fined for lockdown march

A man has been outraged after being fined more than £ 1,760 under Covid laws for walking on Ainsdale beach.

Tom Hedley, 21, was convicted of leaving his home in Clayton-Le-Woods, Lancashire, during a closed hearing on May 7 after being arrested at Ainsdale Beach last November.

Police officers had found Hedley walking with a friend on the night of November 12, at the start of the second nationwide lockdown.

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At the time, no one was allowed to go out of where they lived without a reasonable excuse, but to exercise or indulge in “outdoor recreation” with another person who was not part of the community. same household or the same support bubble was explicitly allowed by foreclosure regulations. .

There were also no legal restrictions on how far you could travel to engage in these activities, although government guidelines said people were to stay local.

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Hedley said: “We had been out for a walk on the beach, it was a bit bad, so we literally walked up Ainsdale beach and thought about going home.

“Then we were greeted by two policemen in a van who asked us where we were from and asked us why we were there and then fined us.

“I was so confused why we were fined.”

Her case was handled by Magistrate James Long under the “Single Court Procedure” (SJP), which involves a single magistrate adjudicating cases in private on the basis of written evidence only.

SJP hearings, in which no lawyer is present and over 80% of defendants do not plead, were introduced to expedite the processing of high volume and low level cases.

Hedley’s case was one of 39 processed in two hours and 15 minutes on May 7.

The evidence against Hedley was the statement of PC James Gerrie, who arrested him and a friend on the night of November 12.

In his written statement, PC Gerrie said: “The two men were asked why they were on the beach and both said they had come for a drive because they were bored driving in the area of. Chorley and that was something to do.

“As a result of this information and after explaining the coronavirus restrictions in place, it was established that the men were absent from their homes without a reasonable excuse and as such in violation of the law.

“I informed the two men and warned them.”

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The journey from Mr Hedley’s home in Chorley to Ainsdale beach takes about half an hour, which is why, after looking at the restrictions in his area, he believed he would be allowed to travel there. .

Hedley said: “They put my name in there to almost label me a criminal for going out for a walk.”

Since initially receiving the fine in November, Mr Hedley believed nothing would come out of the case until recently.

He said: “I didn’t think about it, I thought they would have looked at him and actually said he hadn’t done anything wrong.

“I just think if this has happened to me, how many other people has it happened to.”

A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: ‘At around 10 p.m. on Thursday, November 12, a Merseyside Police officer issued Covid Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to two men near Shore Road, Southport.

“The FPNs were issued because the men, who lived in separate households, could not provide a reasonable excuse as to why they had traveled to the area from Chorley, Lancashire. Asked by the officer, one of the men said they were in the area for a drive because they were bored and it was “something to do”.

“In November 2020, England was under national lockdown. Going by car with someone from a separate household and without a reasonable excuse was not a legal reason to leave your home. Therefore, the FPNs were issued accordingly.

Mr Hedley’s case was heard in May, when his original £ 200 fine was increased to £ 1,760.

He disputes the allegations and said it was something he couldn’t afford to pay.

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