Covid-19: Harlow gym owner fined for staying open under lockdown

Watch the moment police arrest a gym owner after the venue stayed open during lockdown

The owner of a gym which remained open in defiance of the second national lockdown has been fined for breaching coronavirus legislation.

The Ripped Gym in Harlow had put out social media posts saying it planned to remain open for its customers despite the second national lockdown last autumn.

Officers captured on body-worn cameras the moment they confronted management at the gym in Wych Elm on November 5 2020, the day the second national lockdown came into effect.

Inside, they found customers using the equipment, despite staff from Harlow Council having previously warned owners that the gym would have to close in accordance with coronavirus legislation.

A woman, who was later identified as Michelle Meade-Wyatt, handed a police officer a notice claiming the gym was operating under common law, but refused to identify herself or answer any questions.

As a result, police could not issue a fixed penalty notice and Meade-Wyatt said she would not consent to the fine.

After 40 minutes of trying to engage with her, she was arrested for breaching the regulations, said police.

'A blatant breach of the legislation'

Meade-Wyatt appeared at Southend Magistrates' Court on December 7 last year where she denied failing to cease carrying on a business that was restricted under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020. She appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on November 23 this year where she admitted the charge.

Meade-Wyatt, of Pygons Hill Lane, Liverpool, was ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £1,205.

Meade-Wyatt told the PA news agency: "I stayed open because the members were committing suicide."

She said she only admitted the charge after there was a "slight changing of wording".

Meade-Wyatt claimed that after her arrest she was held for "just under 30 hours", and she planned to take civil action against the force.

Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan said: “We have always said first and foremost we would speak to people, explain the regulations and encourage them to do the right thing.

“But we will continue to respond to clear and blatant breaches and work with our partners to resolve them. This case is a very clear example of a blatant breach of the legislation, which not only put people’s health at risk, but at a time when infection rates were rising.”

She added: “We know the restrictions have had a major impact on business owners, but the vast majority made sacrifices to keep their customers safe and to comply with the legislation.”