Owner wins essential shop appeal against convictions for opening during lockdown
The owner of a family-run greetings and gift store facing a £44,000 bill for breaking Covid19 lockdown regulations has won an appeal and said it’s “a huge weight off our minds”.
Alasdair Walker-Cox runs Grace Cards & Books in Droitwich, Worcestershire, with wife Lydia and had argued they sold essential items the same as WHSmith, which was allowed to stay open throughout the pandemic, so they continued trading during the second lockdown.
But police raided the 30-year-old business – filmed by the couple with the footage being circulated on social media – to force the couple to comply with the ruling that non-essential shops had to shut to stop coronavirus spreading.
The case was brought by Wychavon District Council which said the food offering was “not substantial enough” to detract from the business’s core activity as a card and gift shop.
In evidence Mr Walker-Cox argued that he had compared their shop to others like WHSmith which were allowed to open, and he was concerned about being able to pay the rent, but he was found guilty of four breaches of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.4) Regulations 2020, and fined £35,000 at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court last August, plus £8,986.67 in court costs and a £190 victim surcharge.
However, on Friday, 25 February, the ruling was overturned by Judge James Burbidge QC sitting at Worcester Crown Court, who said: “We allow this appeal against his conviction and sentence.”
Speaking to the Worcester News Mr Walker-Cox said: “We have been through a lot, it should never have got this far, but it is the nature of the beast going through a legal process.
“We argued we were essential, we sold food – common sense prevailed in the end.
“Word has spread that we won the appeal, customers who supported us have been coming in to talk to us about it. The huge amount we were fined – it is a huge weight off our minds.”
Mrs Walker-Cox told the BBC: “We just stuck to the facts that we are a food retailer and we sell newspapers as well – and common sense prevailed and the judge said there was insufficient evidence for the conviction to be upheld.
“We feel immensely relieved obviously, but I don’t feel euphoric, because I think a lot of people have been harmed by lockdowns so it’s a difficult one.”
Top: Grace Cards & Books stayed open during lockdown