Non-Essential Journeys #18: The Roseberry Topping Controversy
by TIM HICKS
Regular readers will no doubt be aware that in accordance with our duty as journalists, the NYE is doing everything it can to support the efforts of the vast majority of NYP officers to ensure public safety.
It does this by:
- Promulgating police information on the lockdown rules.
- Making clear its support for the efforts of ACC Mike Walker – Gold Commander for North Yorkshire Police (NYP) response to the pandemic – and his officers to protect the public.
- Ridiculing North Yorkshire Police Chief Officers for breaching the Coronavirus Lockdown Regulations by undertaking unnecessary visits to police stations – to deter them from this irresponsible behaviour, thereby preventing them from spreading the infection across multiple police stations and infecting police officers.
- Highlighting cases of prominent figures that breach the Lockdown to raise awareness and try to encourage leadership by example.
- Promulgating cases of successful police operations against those that transgress the lockdown regulations, to try and deter members of the public from endangering everyone’s safety by indulging in unnecessary journeys and social gatherings.
Most of these elements are present in this article.
Public unease at the application of the Lockdown Regulations
Unusually, NYP has recently been castigated in the national press over use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to detect people crossing the border into North Yorkshire from Tier 2 areas Daily Mail Online article here. The article is well worth a read and quotes privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch as calling NYP’s behaviour ‘totalitarian‘ and warning of a ‘growing surveillance state and a civil liberties landslide’.
One of our readers recently complained about the way NYP is applying the Lockdown Regulations. The text is below:
“Tim Hicks may be interested to see this:
And especially the – in my opinion – unhelpful (and threatening) quote from Supt Mike Walker of NYP (Pictured below):
Supt Mike Walker, who is in charge of North Yorkshire Police’s Covid-19 response, said:
“Those living in tier three areas are advised not to travel out of the area unless it is necessary, such as for work or education.
I realise there may be some confusion over what is deemed necessary in these circumstances, so I’d like to be clear here; it is neither necessary or acceptable to leave a tier three area and enter a lower tier area for a day trip or to visit a pub or restaurant for a meal.”
What on earth objection could there be for someone who lives in Guisborough (in Redcar and Cleveland, which is a Tier 3 Area) walking up Roseberry Topping? Including the final two or three steps to the summit trig point which is just over the “border” in North Yorkshire (Tier 2 Area).
Should such a walker expect to meet PC Plod on the “border” advising she can’t take those final two or three paces?
Or if an active friend drives a few minutes to Stokesley to swim, in North Yorkshire?
That friend lives close to the border with North Yorkshire. He tells me every time he goes out on his bike he is in North Yorkshire within a matter of minutes – then mostly leaves it briefly for a Tier 3 area, before re-entering North Yorkshire for almost all the remainder of his ride. It’s similar when he goes running.
If he isn’t supposed to enter a Tier 2 area unless essential this means he can’t deliver a Christmas card to a friend’s letter-box in the adjacent village.
I suppose Supt Mike Walker would advise none of these totally risk-free activities is essential.
Of course what his view is on these matters isn’t too relevant. Because it is not illegal to cross the border.
(This article states “not allowed”:https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/strange-quirk-meaning-you-can-19381125. But see the first listed comment which states the correct position.)
I don’t believe Supt Walker is helping anyone – including NYP – by his threatening remarks as reported:
He warned people living in Tier Three areas not to “try to side-step” the tighter restrictions by visiting neighbouring Tier Two places for a day or night out.
The force said it would be “actively patrolling” border areas with an “increased presence”, including using its safety camera fleet, equipped with number plate recognition cameras.
Patrolling the border is just a waste of resource and time. And thankfully my friend tells me he has yet to see a PC poking his head out from the bushes at the end of the road”
[Name and address withheld at the request of the author]
The dilemmas facing the police
It seems to me that the police are in an impossible position because to cut down on the number of infections, they have to restrict movement from high risk areas into lower risk areas.
They can’t be everywhere, so they have had to deploy surveillance measures, which are unpopular with the public and civil libertarians like Big Brother Watch.
Wearing facemasks is also unpopular with many people. Leading to demonstrations and refusing to wear the masks. The medical advice is that wearing masks restricts the spread of the virus, so the police have no choice but to enforce the regulations.
There is also widespread concern at the effectiveness of the measures and the restrictions on ordinary life, which the NYE has covered. NYE article by Nigel Ward here.
Concerning the Roseberry Topping issue, the Tier 3 regulations applying in Cleveland & Redcar for physical activity like walking are:
“You can continue to do unlimited exercise alone, or in an outdoor public place in groups up to 6.”
For Tier 2, applying in North Yorkshire, for physical activity like walking they area:
“You can take part in organised sport and physical activity outdoors with any number of people.”
So, in principle, there should be no reason why our reader can’t walk to the top of Roseberry Topping (Illustrated above. The photograph is taken in North Yorkshire showing the view over Cleveland & Redcar), as our reader above points out.
However, the Regulations state:
“The government says to avoid travelling outside your area, including for overnight stays, other than where necessary, such as:
- for work
- for education
- to access voluntary, charitable or youth services
- because of caring responsibilities
- for moving home
- to visit your support bubble
- for a medical appointment or treatment
Where necessary, you can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.”
I would also point out that according to the above BBC article, it is the National Trust that is advising walkers not to climb to the top of Roseberry Topping, not the police.
ACC Walker’s remarks are very clear and refer specifically to people crossing in to North Yorkshire to carry out activities that are prohibited in Tier 3, but not prohibited in Tier 2. That is going to the pub or “visiting neighbouring tier two places for a day or night out”. I feel sure he made them to inform the public and deter movement from Tier 3 areas into North Yorkshire.
I am unaware of any cases where anyone who is genuinely exercising and has crossed the border has been arrested or prosecuted. So it seems to me that the police are interpreting the rules in a sensible and tolerant way in terms of the concerns our correspondent has raised.
We should not forget that the nature of their duties puts police officers at a higher risk of infection than the public. They can’t work from home, have to be out and about meeting the public and sometimes have to go hands-on to make arrests. A recent outbreak of COVID-19 amongst officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland resulted in two Police Stations being closed. Eight officers tested positive for COVID-19 and another fifty-one were removed from duty, and had to self-isolate at home. BBC Report here, Illustrating the extra duties they face.
The risks to police officers are much higher in North Yorkshire because Chief Police Officers have been ignoring the rules by making unnecessary journeys, not observing social distancing and not wearing masks.
Phil Cain’s tweet of him attending Scarborough Police Station for a retirement presentation
Private Eye article
Lisa Winward’s tweet about her visit to a police station
I have not had any further examples of this type of irresponsible behaviour reported to me, since our coverage. So I can only hope that the adverse publicity generated by the NYE has succeeded in educating DCC Cain and CC Winward in the risks associated with their conduct and deterring them from undermining the efforts of everyone else in NYP by publicly breaking the regulations.
If so, it is a major step forward that will hopefully help protect individual police officers from infection. It is also an example of the importance of a free press holding powerful public servants to account.
Accountability and leadership by example NYP-style
Needless to say, neither DCC Cain nor Chief Constable Lisa Winward has faced any action for breaching the lockdown regulations.
Nor have the four police officers that travelled from Cleveland to Whitby on motorbikes and were seen defying the regulations and eating fish and chips without observing social distancing.
So if you are questioned by a police officer over the coronavirus regulations, you may care to invite him to arrest DCC Cain and Chief Constable Winward, before you answer any questions.
NYP fines seventeen people in Scarborough and Whitby for breaching Lockdown Regulations
According to this BBC article NYP fined 14 people over four illegal house parties in Scarborough and a further three fixed penalty notices to people who visited Whitby from the Cleveland area.
This is particularly concerning given that on the 11th of November 2020 Scarborough’s infection rate was 611 per 100,000 of the population and was the second-highest in England, but that fell to 162.7 in the seven days to the 3rd of December 2020.
Chief Inspector Rachel Wood of North Yorkshire Police is quoted in the article as saying:
“To see people having parties and jeopardising that progress is really quite shocking.
It’s really concerning to see the number of fixed penalty notices we have had to issue this weekend, especially considering that it was only a few weeks ago that Scarborough had some of the highest infection rates in the UK.
Residents, the local authority and our policing teams have all worked so hard to get the infection rates down.
I realise people want to get their lives back to normal and want to see friends and family – we all do.
“However, if we all rush out and ignore the regulations, we are going to end up back at square one.”
Chief Inspector Wood emphasised that people should not “not gather indoors with anyone who is not from your own household”.
I am grateful to one of our correspondent for bringing these matters to my attention. He posed the question “How can penalty notices be handed out, if the travel guidance is only guidance (which it is)?”
I prefer to leave that one to the lawyers to resolve.
However, it is completely unacceptable that Chief Inspector Wood will fine members of the public for breaching the regulations in Scarbough and Whitby, while ignoring exactly the same transgressions in exactly the same places by her Chief Officers and motorcycle policemen from Cleveland Police.
The irresponsible actions and hypocrisy of DCC Cain and Chief Constable Winward publicly undermine the commendable and selfless efforts of Chief Inspector Wood and her team to protect the public.
The Lockdown Rules
You can access the lockdown rules using the links provided by NYP below.
In this context, to deter people from breaching the lockdown rules, if you become aware of a public figure or police officer breaching the lockdown rules, please photograph or video them using your mobile ‘phone and inform the NYE using the email@example.com email.
Right of Reply
If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.