Gift card shop owners hit with £1,000 fine for refusing to close

Defiant gift card shop owners hit with £1,000 fine for refusing to close say they are prepared to go to JAIL – the latest ‘non-essential’ business to defy Covid lockdown

  • Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox have refused to shut card shop in Droitwich
  • Claim they sell essential items including newspapers, snacks and baking items
  • Couple who have seven children fined £1,000 fine after being ordered to close
  • But they have run the shop for 30 years and are now prepared to risk going to jail

A defiant couple who run a gift card shop are prepared to risk going to jail rather than close after they were fined for flouting coronavirus lockdown rules.

Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox have refused to shut their shop – claiming they sell essential items including newspapers, snacks and baking products.

They were given a £1,000 fine after police and trading standards officers ordered them to close Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich, Worcestershire, last week.

Footage taken on Mrs Walker-Cox’s mobile phone captured the moment officers warned them they were breaking lockdown rules. But the couple, who have seven children and have run the shop for 30 years, are now prepared to risk going to jail.

All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen next Wednesday, whichever tier their area is placed in when England exits the four-week national lockdown. 

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 

West Mercia Police officers spoke to Mr Walker-Cox at the shop in Worcestershire last week

Mr Walker-Cox, 54, said: ‘If we shut we won’t be able to pay suppliers, the rent, let alone support the family. If we open we can.

‘We believe lockdowns do not work against the virus and on principle we want to open and support our family and suppliers instead.’

Other shops refusing to close despite being open illegally 

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 on Saturday.

But council officers visited the shop on Monday and Tuesday and issued two further £10,000 fines after they found it was still open and trading.

These followed a prohibition notice to close and fines totalling £3,000. 

Ms Quinn had posted a sign at the salon which cited the Magna Carta in defence of her decision to stay open.

Clause 61 — a general defence of liberty — was entered into the Magna Carta in 1215 and removed a year later. 

It gave 25 barons the right to lawfully dissent or rebel if they thought they were being governed unjustly.  It was never incorporated into English law and can’t be used as a court defence.

The Mustard Seed cafe in Nottingham

The Mustard Seed

Two men were arrested at a Christian bookshop and tearooms which refused to close during lockdown.

Police were called to the Mustard Seed cafe in Nottingham after reports 40 to 50 people were inside.

The men were arrested on November 14 when they refused to hand over their details to officers who were attempting to fine them each £200.

Owners of the cafe had already been handed a £1,000 fine for breaching coronavirus restrictions. They had refused to close during the second national lockdown, citing the Magna Carta and common law.

The couple argue that they should be allowed to remain open because they sell food and baking products as well as cards, gifts and books.

Mrs Walker-Cox, 50, said: ‘We don’t sell anything that much different than WH Smith so why can they stay open but we cannot?

‘We have a sugarcraft section which is very significant and everything to do with making cakes and provide stuff for people who run their own businesses from home.

‘We’re definitely essential based on our sugarcraft section and we sell confectionary crisps and drinks as well. We’re willing to go all the way.

‘It’s the principle now and we have got legal help. It’s not just for ourselves that we are staying open, we have had so much response from other people.

‘We’ve had tons of emails, phone calls from similar people in similar situations and businesses that are crumbling and businesses that are gone.

‘We are just standing up for ourselves and other small businesses because of the injustice of it. This second lockdown should never have happened. 

‘I don’t think the trade-off is worth it on the economy of the country and businesses in general. A month shutting everybody down just before Christmas is just nonsensical.’

Wychavon District Council gave the couple a £1,000 fine last week.

Mrs Walker-Cox added: ‘The cost of closing is the same as remaining open so we’re damned either way. We don’t know what’s going to happen after Christmas.

‘Government are being very condescending and saying yes everybody we’re going to let you have Christmas but we don’t know what’s going to happen.

‘We could be in the same situation again so if we haven’t fought now we are in the same situation again in January. We’re nailing our colours to the mast and saying we are a business that is going to stay open.’

Non-essential shops were among places in England told to close for four weeks on November 5, to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Businesses can be fined by local authorities and the police if they fail to close with penalties starting from £1,000 for a first-time offence to £10,000 for the fourth and any subsequent offences.

Chief Superintendent Paul Moxley, of West Mercia Police, said the force’s hands were tied by the rules.

He said: ‘We remain hugely sympathetic to the difficult times that business owners, particularly small and independent businesses, are having to endure.

‘This shop had already been advised previously by Wychavon District Council that they should not be open within the current restrictions and the shop had already been issued with a Prohibition Notice.

A prohibition notice for the business was issued on November 19 under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

Wychavon District Council gave the couple a £1,000 fine last week after they refused to close

The Walker-Cox couple have seven children and have run the shop in Droitwich for 30 years

‘We understand the restrictions can be challenging, and we know this business is well-loved in Droitwich, but the Government legislation is in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and to keep us all safe. We all have a critical part to play in that.’

Wychavon District Council defended the decision to fine the couple. A spokesman said: ‘Grace Cards and Books is registered as a card and gift shop and that is one of the businesses types that have to close by law.

‘They chose to remain open and so a prohibition notice was issued on Thursday, November 19 under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020.

‘The Government made the decision on which type of businesses would and would not be allowed to trade and what they would be allowed to sell. We can only enforce the regulations.’

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