OFFICERS from the Royal Military Police and the North Yorkshire force manned checkpoints yesterday in an operation to combat unnecessary public travel.

With new regulations now in force to reduce the spread of coronavirus, officers from Richmond neighbourhood police team along with soldiers from the Royal Military Police were out in public conducting road checks across the district at Catterick Garrison and Leyburn.

The Northern Echo:

Generally most people were complying with the new government instructions by travelling to buy essential or were key workers going to or from work. A considerable number were driving to take their daily exercise.

Helenor Gwatkin, a PCSO who spoke to motorists, was surprised by a minority who if not directly breaking the rules, were certainly bending them. She said: "I spoke to a woman at Catterick Garrison who was en-route to Aysgarth from Darlington for some fresh air; I sent her home. I also spoke to an elderly couple who had driven from Leyburn to do some non-essential shopping.”

The Northern Echo:

The patrols also made their presence felt outside shops and supermarkets where the shoppers were queuing. The sight of officers conducting the high-visibility operation was welcomed by the public who approached the police from a safe distance and praised them. No fines were issued.

In charge of the operation was Inspector Mark Gee who was pleased they got the message out. He said: “I am very grateful to the Military Police who joined us today. We are out explaining to people that unless they fit the government criteria they should be at home.

The Northern Echo:

“Most people were legitimately going about their business however a significant number were driving to locations to take exercise; if this isn’t against the law it is certainly against the spirit of it.

“We will continue to conduct these checks across Richmondshire day and night. If everybody follows the guidance it will save lives and protect the NHS.”

Checkpoints across the county will be unannounced and could appear anywhere any time.

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker said: “I know the vast majority of people will follow the restrictions without question, as they have done so already.

“And as the legislation comes into force, the roadside checks will help us to reinforce the messaging.

“So we ask people not to make non-essential journeys, and to understand the definition of essential.

“We sincerely hope that we won’t have to resort to enforcement action, but if people do not comply, we will.”