Card shop owners who refused to close during lockdown fined £35,000

·3 min read
Alasdair, 54, and wife Lydia Walker-Cox, 50, kept their card shop open during lockdown. (SWNS)
Alasdair, 54, and wife Lydia Walker-Cox, 50, kept their card shop open during lockdown. (SWNS)

The owners of a gift card shop that refused to close during lockdown have been fined £35,000.

Alasdair Walker-Cox, 54, and wife Lydia, 50, were penalised for breaking coronavirus restrictions after keeping Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich, Worcestershire, open despite non-essential shops being told to shut.

They insisted they did nothing wrong because the shop sold essentials like newspapers, snacks and baking products and said they would rather go to prison than close.

Worcestershire Regulatory Services issued them with seven separate fines during two lockdowns last November and in February.

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Police visited Grace Cards & Books in the St Andrews Square shopping centre, Droitwich. (SWNS)
Police visited Grace Cards and Books in the St Andrews Square shopping centre, Droitwich. (SWNS)

Walker-Cox went on trial at Kidderminster Magistrates Court to deny failing to comply with The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions ) Regulations.

Magistrates found him guilty of the charges and gave him £5,000 fines for each breach - totalling a cost of £35,000 on Tuesday.

The couple had accumulated £20,000 in penalties for keeping their store open at the St Andrews Square shopping centre.

Prosecutor Howard Leithead, said: "Any shop can set up a few drinks and sell newspapers to become a newsagents - this clearly wasn't a newsagents.”

He added: "The shop is a called a card and book shop - that is exactly what it is."

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Giving evidence, Walker-Cox told the court how they had compared their business to others like WH Smith.

He said: "We noticed WH Smith were open and we sold similar items to them so we remained open. 

"We could increase our offerings of essential goods.”

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Walker-Cox also admitted in court he wanted to remain open because he was worried about paying rent to the landlord.

When accused of bending the rules to make it look like he was a newsagents, Mr Walker-Cox replied: "No, we are a newsagents."

Natasha Hausdorff, defending, claimed Walker-Cox's shop can fall into either the category of news or food , which was on a government exemption list during the pandemic.

The shop was issued with seven separate fines. (SWNS)
The shop was issued with seven separate fines. (SWNS)
The couple argued they sold essential items. (SWNS)
The couple argued they sold essential items. (SWNS)

Sentencing, District Judge Ian Strongman, said: "The products Mr Walker-Cox had in his shop were not those of a food retailer but those of a confectioner.

He added: "It's a card and book shop who happen to sell a few newspapers.

"On this occasion, the local authority were right to serve the prohibitions notices.”

Speaking previously, the couple, who have run the shop for 30 years, said they would rather go to prison than close their business.

Mrs Walker-Cox said: “We’re willing to go all the way, it’s the principle now and we have got legal help.

"The cost of closing is the same as remaining open so we’re damned either way."

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