LONDON: British police faced criticism on March 27 for using "over-the-top" methods to maintain a coronavirus lockdown, after officers armed with sweeping new powers deployed drones to detect walkers far from home.
Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch said the police must behave within the rule of law after it also emerged that road checkpoints had been set up to quiz drivers about their journeys.
"It's understandable why police are dispersing parties and barbecues but demanding drivers give journey details at road checkpoints is over-the-top," said director Silkie Carlo.
"It's critical we protect public health and critical we protect basic democratic norms too. Arbitrary policing will not help the country to fight this pandemic."
The drone incident happened in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, central England, while roadblocks were used in other parts of the country.
Social media users compared their actions to "the Stasi", East Germany's notorious state police.
Another civil liberties group, Liberty, said in a statement: "We need a response in terms of public health rather than a response in terms of criminal justice to this epidemic."
Britons have been told since the beginning of the week that they are only allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons such as going to work, essential food shopping, or for exercise once a day.
But they are not allowed to travel for recreational purposes.
To enforce the new rules, police were officially handed powers which prevents people leaving their home "without reasonable excuse".
Those ignoring the tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 (RM319) fine doubled to £120 (RM638) for any second offence.
The measures will be in place for at least six months, with a review every three weeks.
Derbyshire police defended their actions, claiming in a tweet that "we will not be apologetic for using any legal and appropriate methods to keep people safe".
It added: "Our actions and the government's advice are there to keep you and others safe."
A total of 11,658 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Britain, and 578 deaths. – AFP