The decision to fine two women at a remote spot for alleged Covid-19 breaches will have "damaged" the public’s perception of how the laws are enforced, a former police chief has said.
Mike Barton said that he believed Derbyshire Police would "row back" on its decision to fine the pair who had gone for a walk five miles from their home.
The former Durham Police chief constable said: "I think personally Derbyshire will row back from this position, but sadly there will be some damage done here because for the public to comply with the law, they have got to think and see the police are acting fairly. It’s called procedural justice.
"If police aren’t seen to be acting fairly, the public won’t comply.
"It’s all very well some people in Whitehall sabre rattling and banging the table that the police are going to enforce these rules, that doesn’t bring about compliance. The public seeing fairness does."
Mr Barton said it was "no wonder" some police forces were confused about how to enforce the Covid-19 laws, given some of the terminology used by the Government.
He told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: "What we have got here is police in the past nine months have had hundreds of different rules sent to them.
"In my day when I was policing we would have one piece of legislation a year, maybe a couple, and then we would have a training programme on how to enforce it. That space hasn’t been given to policing.
"This is all based on the word ‘local’ and I have never seen that in legislation before.
"None of those issues have ever been described by the law before, so no wonder there is some confusion out there."
Current lockdown guidance instructs the public to limit exercise – including running, cycling, swimming and walking – to once per day, and says while people can leave their home, they should not travel outside their local area.