Bedford gym owner who defied lockdown criticises waste of time and money as £10k fine case collapses

  • The gym owner gave his reaction to ITV News Anglia's Russell Hookey

A gym owner who was threatened with a £10,000 fine for breaching coronavirus restrictions has criticised the "waste of time and money" after the case against him collapsed.

Alex Lowndes defied the second national lockdown when he kept Gainz Fitness & Strength in Bedford open in November 2020, at a time when only elite athletes were allowed to train at such facilities.

His actions saw police sent out to the gym, and resulted in a prosecution which could have resulted in a £10,000 fine.

However, the case brought by Bedford Borough Council collapsed - leading Mr Lowndes to criticise the decision to pursue him through the courts.

He said: "I think it's sad that it's happened in the first place.

"Certainly we are not celebrating. We are happy that we have won but it should never have come this far."

Police turned up at Gainz Fitness and Strength when it refused to close under the second lockdown. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mr Lowndes had argued that he kept his gym open as it was crucial for the mental health of its members, an implication that had not been considered fully by government.

He told ITV News Anglia at the time that he did not believe the gym was responsible for a large number of coronavirus infections.

He now believes the legal case should have been reassessed by the council, which, along with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, has the power to pursue fixed penalty notices in court.

"Six months or a year ago they should have looked at it and gone 'this is a waste of time'," he added.

"Especially after partygate and Downing Street and all the revelations that have come out of that, it should have been dropped."

Mr Lowndes' case is one of more than 20 that has been dropped or overturned by lawyer Lucinda Nicholls, who said that the prosecutions were unfair.

She said: "There certainly needs to be consideration of what happened, and how it happened. Enforcement [of the law] was appalling. 

She added: "The criminal justice system is about fairness. There was nothing fair about the prosecutions and the enforcement of the legislation."

In a statement, Bedford Borough Council defended its decision to prosecute, and said it had been unable to secure the evidence it had hoped.

"The case was not won or lost by either party as a result of trial," it told ITV News Anglia in a statement.

"The case was withdrawn due to the difficulties around a third-party disclosure that was not forthcoming; something entirely out of the council's hands."