‘We’re not a health hazard’: Defiant gift card shop owners have now racked up £18,000 in FINES after ignoring restrictions and are prepared to go to jail rather than close their doors
- Alasdair, 54, and Lydia Walker-Cox, 50, accumulated £18,000 in Covid fines
- Couple have refused to close ‘essential’ card shop in Worcestershire for lockdown
- The last fine alone the couple were hit with was for £10,000
- Wychavon District Council said forced closure or court action being considered
The defiant owners of a gift card shop have racked up almost £20,000 in fines after refusing to close during lockdown.
Alasdair, 54, and Lydia Walker-Cox, 50, were penalised for breaking coronavirus rules after keeping their gift card shop in Droitwich, Worcestershire, open despite non-essential shops being told to stay shut.
The couple, who have been fined £17,000 since the start of the year, believe their shop should be classed as essential as it sells items including newspapers, snacks and baking products.
Police and trading standards officers have hit them with fines after ordering them to close Grace Cards and Books.
Mrs Walker-Cox has also been threatened with arrest for refusing to wear a mask while stacking the shelves in the shop.
Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox have refused to shut Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich, claiming they sell essential items including newspapers, snacks and baking products
Despite the fines, the couple, who have run the shop for 30 years, say they would rather go to prison than close their business.
Mrs Walker-Cox said: ‘A garden centre is open from 10am till 6pm, what is essential about that?
‘It’s not even spring and summer when everyone is gardening so tell me what is essential about a garden centre?
A prohibition notice for the business was issued by West Mercia Police on November 19 under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020
Wychavon District Council’s first fine handed out to the couple in November was for £1,000 fine last week after they refused to close
‘We are doing our job by being and we have a family to feed and bills to pay.
‘I can’t see the proof of being a health hazard and that is the grounds for which we are being told to close.
‘The line for us is that we don’t agree with it and we will go to court for it.
‘Our lease states that we can sell food items so we can be classed as a food retailer.
Alasdair, 54, and Lydia Walker-Cox, 50, owners of Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich, Worcestershire, said they would rather go to prison than close their business
Businesses facing thousands in fines for refusing to close
Reps Gym in Preston, Lancashire
Steven Todd of Reps Gym in Preston, Lancashire, was forced to board up his premises after repeatedly refusing to close during the national lockdown.
He ignored 11 previous warnings and fixed penalty notices ordering him to close his doors during the current national lockdown.
He claimed his gym provided an important public service to protect the mental health of its users.
But Preston City Council has now been granted a Closure Order on the 10,000 square foot gym.
Quinn Blakey Hairdressers in Oakenshaw, West Yorkshire
Sinead Quinn, 29
Salon owner Sinead Quinn could be fined £27,000 after refusing to close during lockdown and quoting the Magna Carta to justify the rule breach.
The 29-year-old owner of Quinn Blakey Hairdressers in Oakenshaw, West Yorkshire, initially faced a fine of £4,000 for breaches.
But council officers visited the shop and issued two further £10,000 fines after they found it was still trading.
These followed a prohibition notice to close and fines totalling £3,000.
‘When the rubber hits the road, if it was you who didn’t have a job and can’t provide for your family and can’t pay your bills then it would be different.
‘We are willing to take this to court.
‘I don’t think masks are healthy, I think they are terrible things to wear.
‘What kind of country are we living in now why can’t I have my personal opinions?
‘Are we not allowed to have them anymore?
‘I don’t think masks are healthy and being subject to maybe bacterial pneumonia or some kind of gum disease.
‘Why shouldn’t I have my own public opinion?’
Mr and Mrs Walker-Cox were first fined £1,000 last November but have now accumulated almost £20,000 in penalties for keeping their shop open.
Last December they were issued a £1,000 fine after they refused to close during the second lockdown.
Since January 5 they have been issued with another £1,000 fine followed by one for £2,000 and another for £4,000.
In February 10 they were hit with a £10,000 fine.
Wychavon District Council said discussions had taken place about further action, including a forced closure or court action, due to concerns about the risk the shop’s continued opening poses to public health.
Council Leader Bradley Thomas said: ‘Despite the impact coronavirus regulations are having on businesses, the vast majority of our traders are following the rules because they want to play their part in bringing infections down to help protect our NHS and save lives.
‘It’s disappointing this one particular business feels the need to flout the rules and we will work with our partners to take further action, if needed, to protect the public.
‘Financial support is available to businesses and we are working hard to get that money out as fast as possible.
‘While infections are coming down in Wychavon, they are still high, and our local NHS remains under significant pressure.
‘We have a plan to support businesses to rebuild once this pandemic is over.
‘That day will come much faster if we all follow the rules and help get back on top of this virus.’
Twitter users mock Home Office’s new Stay At Home warning video
Twitter users have criticised The Home Office’s new ‘Stay at Home’ warning video for being ‘aggressive’, comparing the messaging to an advert for Netflix’s Black Mirror and even the Gestapo.
The video, posted to Twitter by the ministerial department yesterday, urges people to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic and features a series of police raids on illegal gatherings scored to the sounds of drum and bass music.
But members of the public have questioned the tone of the clip, which appears to be modelled on a 90s anti-piracy advert.
Compiled footage shows police bodycam footage of officers storming into properties including homes, pubs and warehouse spaces where the public has been found to be breaching lockdown rules.
Several warning messages flash across the screen in bold white font such as: ‘You shouldn’t go to parties,’ You shouldn’t make your own pub’, ‘You shouldn’t go to raves’, ‘You shouldn’t hold baby showers’ and ‘You shouldn’t be meeting up’.
The Home Office captioned the tweet: ‘All gatherings are currently against the law. Stay Home. Protect The NHS. Save Lives.’
Social media users have called out the Home Office for the ‘aggressive’ tone of the video.
Compiled footage shows police bodycam footage of officers storming into properties including homes, pubs and warehouse spaces
The Home Office captioned the tweet: ‘All gatherings are currently against the law. Stay Home. Protect The NHS. Save Lives’
Some commenters compared it to an advertisement for the popular Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’ while others say it appeared to be a ‘spoof’.
‘I thought at first this was a spoof – the tone of this official video is totally wrong. If you’re going to take away all our rights, at least do it with a bit of gravitas…,’ wrote one person.
Someone else added: ‘I thought this was an ad for the new Black Mirror. Disappointed.’
‘It’s so aggressive and s**t with all that wobbly graffiti style writing. Maybe someone’s 12-year-old made it on their phone,’ wrote another person.
Some commenters compared it to an advertisement for the popular Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’ while others say it appeared to be a ‘spoof’
A police officer is seen entering an illegal gathering that is breaching Covid regulations
Warning messages flash up on the screen reading ‘you shouldn’t make your own pub’ and ‘you shouldn’t hold baby showers’
Twitter users compared it to an advertisement for the popular Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’ while others say it appeared to be a ‘spoof’
‘I thought was gonna say “you wouldn’t steal, you shouldn’t pirate movies”… Also, WHO is having DnB baby showers?,’ added someone else. [sic]
‘Why so aggressive?,’ asked another viewer.
‘Is it me or does this have the same vibe as the anti piracy ads on videos and dvds in the early 00’s,’ quipped someone else.
One Twitter user even made a reference to the secret police of Nazi Germany.
Another clip featured in the video shows the moment police raided a home in Hornchurch, east London, to find 20 people inside enjoying a baby shower
In a clip featured in the warning video police are seen cracking down on 13 Covid rule-breakers in an illegal bar in Dudley Port, West Midlands, that was mockingly named ‘The Covid Arms’
‘It’s the Gestapo!,’ they commented below the video.
But not everyone disliked the video, as one person wrote: ‘This is absolutely stunning I cannot process this f***ing video.’
In a clip featured in the warning video police are seen cracking down on 13 Covid rule-breakers in an illegal bar that was mockingly named ‘The Covid Arms’.
The bar, complete with the sign, was discovered by officers in a garage workshop in Dudley Port, West Midlands, on February 13.
Twitter users questioned if a ‘teenager’ had made the video and likened it to a 90s anti-piracy video
Another clip featured in the video shows the moment police raided a home to find 20 people inside enjoying a baby shower.
Body-worn footage of officers entering the house in Hornchurch, east London, at the end of last month shows the group sitting around a table covered with food and a balloon arch at one end of the room.
The two organisers, men aged 22 and 44, were both reported for breaking lockdown rules and face a £200 fine each.
The MailOnline has contacted the Home Office for comment.
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