While the first half of that capitalised rant (now deleted) was correct – Tier 4 residents must have a “reasonable excuse” to leave their home – its assertion that the Covid regulations contain a ban on travel is completely false. There is no such ban, and it is perfectly permissible to visit lovely Chorley from Liverpool, London or even Land’s End, so long as you have that all important “reasonable excuse”.
The list of acceptable excuses is extensive. It includes work and shopping (in shops permitted to remain open), taking exercise with your household, linked household, or another person not from your household, as well as open-air recreation, a pretty broad term open to interpretation, in a “public outdoor place” (again, with your household, a linked household, or one other person not from your household).
There are also exceptions for worship, house purchases, waste disposal, collecting food, charitable activities, providing emergency assistance, accessing public services and attending weddings and funerals.
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who has dissected the legislation on Twitter, highlights other “reasonable excuses” including seeking medical assistance and avoiding injury or illness. “[This] includes mental and physical illness,” reasoned Wagner. “In my view, if you need to do something for your mental health, do it.”
British daytrippers, therefore, should certainly not be deterred. A ramble in the Peak District, or even a road trip to pick up takeaway fish and chips at the seaside, is not illegal – so long as you’re following the rules on “gatherings”.
So why do the police keep getting it wrong? It seems the discrepancies between the Government’s guidance and the actual legislation is to blame. The guidance, under the header “Travel”, says: “If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall.” But the police can only enforce the law, not the guidance.
Nor can it enforce off-hand remarks from ministers, unless we want to descend even further into the realm of Police State. This occurred during the March lockdown, when a minister (Michael Gove if memory serves) suggested in a TV interview that one hour was a reasonable amount of time for outdoor exercise.
Lo and behold, overzealous police soon started trying to enforce this limit. Indeed, the misconception that it was part of the March regulations remains, with a BBC report over the weekend wondering “whether we [will] see a return to the one-hour rule for outdoor exercise”.
It wasn’t just officers in Chorley getting the wrong end of the stick over the weekend. A Twitter user reported that Derbyshire Police (Tier 4) were checking car registration plates of vehicles parked close to the border with South Yorkshire (Tier 3).
The user asked whether fixed penalty notices issued to residents exercising outside of their tier would be valid. Barrister Adam Wagner replied: