The defiant owners of a gift card shop have been slapped with £20,000 in fines after they refused to close during lockdown.
Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox were penalised for breaking coronavirus rules after staying open despite non-essential shops being told to stay shut.
The couple instead say they sell essential 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 in Droitwich, Worcs.
Lydia, 50, has also been threatened with arrest for refusing to wear a mask while stacking the shelves in the shop.
Despite the fines, the couple, who have run the shop for 30 years, say they would rather go to prison than close their business.
Lydia said: “A garden centre is open from 10am till 6pm, what is essential about that?
Can’t see proof
“It’s not even spring and summer when everyone is gardening so tell me what is essential about a garden centre?
“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.
“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?”
Lydia and Alasdair, 54, were first fined £1,000 last November but have now accumulated £20,000 in penalties for keeping their shop open.
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.
Flout the rules
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.”