Man 'moved on' for eating sausage roll on Ipswich park bench
- Credit: Olly Gibbs
Ipswich man Olly Gibbs says he doesn't believe he was breaking any lockdown rules when he sat down during a walk in Christchurch Park to eat a sausage roll - but was asked to move on by a police officer.
Mr Gibbs, 47, said the officer was "very polite" after approaching him on the bench, but he still believes some people may want to briefly sit down during a daily walk.
"I live in a flat in central Ipswich and have no garden. I like to have an hour's fresh air each day and buy some lunch and eat it while sat on a park bench half way through my walk, all within a half mile of my flat."
Mr Gibbs said he complies with all lockdown rules, keeping his distance from others and wearing a mask wherever needed.
"I would hate to do anything to worsen the spread of this virus. However, I do not think my actions did this. I believe fresh air and a nice sit down in the sun should not become the preserve of people able to own their own garden."
He has written to Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk Tim Passmore and Ipswich MP Tom Hunt to voice his concerns.
But he stressed: "I have no issue with the police officer who spoke to me, who was very polite. The police are just doing their job and it puts them in a difficult situation as well. "
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The dad, who lives alone, added: "I have phoned my daughter, and she had the same experience last Sunday. It caused her some concern as she was also alone and obeying all current legislation."
He said: "With everything else that's going on, it isn't the end of the world." However, he is concerned that not being allowed to sit down during a walk might put some people off exercising in parks.
The issue of whether people are permitted to sit and eat or drink on park benches during exercise was raised this week when the Prime Minister's official spokesman was asked if someone can sit on a park bench and have a coffee under current rules at a Westminster briefing on Monday, and was unable to answer immediately.
A Downing Street source reportedly later confirmed that, "a “short pause during the course of exercise would be reasonable”, it would be “unlawful to leave the house just to sit in public”.
Current guidance on exercising in lockdown 3 includes detail on various issues, but does not specifically address the issue of stopping to eat.
Suffolk police have said they may stop more people in Suffolk to check why they are out and about. Earlier this month, Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones said policing in the county is "going to get a bit more intrusive", adding: "We make no apology for police officers asking questions and being inquisitive about why people are out of their homes.
"We won't be doing road blocks in the sense that some parts of the country have, but we will be patrolling main routes and our roads and traffic officers and our local officers will be stopping people to ask so it will be in vehicles and on foot in places."