Yorkshire Dales police officer slams day-tripping yobs who said they 'don't believe in the virus'

A police officer has revealed just how poor the behaviour of visitors to the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been during another warm weekend under lockdown.

Malham residents have been imploring visitors to stay away

PCSO Ruth Pearson from North Yorkshire Police shared a Facebook status posted by an unnamed colleague who lives in the Malham area and who was on duty at the weekend.

Malham has already proven to be a hotspot for day-trippers visiting from outside of the area, and several have already been fined in the village for breaking lockdown restrictions. A gang of suspected drug dealers were also caught in the area after they fled their car at a police roadblock.

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Now the police officer has described the situation at the weekend - when they encountered visitors from Dewsbury, Barnsley, Accrington, Bradford and even Kent - as being 'like a nightclub'.

Local residents have erected hand-made signs begging visitors to stay away from Malham

Several of those spoken to gave excuses including that they did not believe in the existence of coronavirus and that the BBC had 'spread lies' about the disease.

"When I politely engaged with folk about going back to where they came from, their sense of entitlement kicked in, and I endured more abuse than I ever have dealing with drunken idiots outside nightclubs. Social distancing does not come into it when you are a cop, and folks want to get in your face to give you the reasons why they are entitled to unnecessary travel with their friends from different households to exercise by carrying shopping bags full of food to beautiful locations because they are 'feeling ill' and 'want some fresh air'.

"One group were spitting on the ground in front of me, one bloke was screaming in my face in front of his children after he had abused a farmer who had challenged him about his dog chasing sheep, and others were climbing over drystone walls to avoid footpaths.

"I dispersed a party on Malham Cove who had also been abusing locals, having a barbecue on parched ground. There are face masks littering the Cove road - a biohazard which I am not prepared to pick up.

"The excuses were endless, including 'the BBC are spreading lies', 'we don't believe in the virus' and even 'human rights'.

"I have never wanted rain so much in my life!"

North Yorkshire Police have since confirmed how many fines were issued in Malham over the weekend.

Seventeen fixed penalty notices were handed out in the village on Saturday, with 13 issued in just one hour. A total of 31 fines were given out on Saturday across the force area, and a further 30 on Sunday.

Other offenders included six people who were caught off-road biking in Brotherton, a man travelling from Yarm to Wakefield to buy paint and two men driving to Bradford to view a car for sale.

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker said:- “Up until this weekend, the vast majority of both residents and visitors to North Yorkshire have acted responsibly and in accordance to government guidance and abided by the rules around only travelling for essential reasons.

“However, we are definitely starting to see a turning of the tide in some areas, with some blatantly ignoring the reason why we have been in a lockdown situation for the past five weeks and making a decision to no longer stay home and save lives.

“When it comes down to it, that’s what we are trying to do here - save lives. We are trying to stop the spread of a deadly virus which has, as this time, claimed the lives of over 20,000 people in this country and thousands more worldwide. The police have their role to play in protecting both the public of North Yorkshire from the spread of COVID-19 and our valuable health service and we remain fully committed to continuing this task.

“However, we need the support of the public and for some to realise and understand why they are being asked to continue to abide by the stay home rules. This virus is not yet beaten, the threat of a second peak of infection is very real, as we have heard from the Prime Minister himself this morning. That’s why we must keep on going - to protect our love ones; our children, partners, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.

“As I have previously mentioned, this is not about finding loopholes in the guidance to justify having a day out. This is about keeping your elderly, vulnerable grandmother safe, your asthmatic child safe or your diabetic father safe. So please think about why it’s important to you personally to stop the spread of this virus. Think about the personal reason, or the family member you are staying home for and if you can’t do it for the health and safety of the nation, please do it for them.”

North Yorkshire Police have already released extensive data on how many people have been fined for breaking the lockdown in April, with many of the offenders caught taking part in activities such as drone flying, camping, group cycling, metal detecting, stargazing, barbecuing, outdoor drinking and watersports. A sociologist from the University of Sheffield has also explained why men aged 18-45 are overwhelmingly more likely to break the restrictions than any other group.