Jersey's Royal Yacht fined £350,000 for breaking Covid law

It is the first time criminal proceedings have been brought against an establishment under coronavirus laws. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The Royal Yacht Hotel in Jersey has been fined £350,000 for "flagrantly" breaching Covid-19 restrictions by opening its spa during the summer.

The hotel pleaded guilty to breaking the rules in February.

Hotel director, James Taylor, then appeared at the Royal Court for sentencing this morning.

Between 22 June and 8 September last year, the hotel fully opened the Spa Serene including Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna facilities when it was prohibited to do so under the law.

At the time of offending, the island was in level one of its safe exit strategy and swimming pools and gyms were permitted to be open.

However, spa facilities including saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzi were ordered to close in March 2020 and have not been allowed to reopen since.

The court heard that when the facilities were reopened in June 2020, the manager of Spa Serene had raised concerns with the hotel’s senior management on a number of occasions, but the facilities remained open. 

Representing the crown, Advocate Matthew Maletroit said the hotel was a "substantial commercial operation" that was "clearly aware of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed".

He added if there was any doubt about their responsibility, they should have sought legal advice.

The court was told the breach was only discovered when a member of the public contacted the Health and Safety inspectorate.

Mr Maletroit said the virus had caused serious illness and death and, by opening the facilities, the hotel had not only put employees and guests in harm’s way, but the island’s community as a whole and for a protracted period of time.

He added there was no evidence that anyone had contracted the virus while using the spa while it was open, but that “it was the risk of harm that is the concern.”

In mitigation, Advocate Steven Chiddock said Mr Taylor claimed the breach was down to a "misunderstanding of the law".

He added Mr Taylor took full responsibility and apologised for the error.

The court heard that, in 2020, the Royal Yacht made a pre-tax profit of around £2 million.

However, the accounts presented did not include any money the hotel received from the government to help support its staff which totalled £1,837,110.

The hotel was fined £350,000 and has also been ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

This is the first time criminal proceedings have been brought against an establishment in Jersey under the Covid-19 workplace restrictions.

In October 2020, the Marina Metro was fined £20,000 following a civil hearing after it failed to comply with Public Health coronavirus guidelines.

The hotel has since released the following statement:

"The hotel owners and management would like to give full consideration to today’s ruling and will issue a more detailed statement in due course. When certain spa facilities and swimming pools were permitted to operate, re-opening our sauna, steam room and jacuzzi was a genuine oversight for which we are truly sorry and take full responsibility.

"The Royal Yacht will continue to strive to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our staff and guests. We would like to thank all of our dedicated team and our valued and loyal customers for their continued support."