Covid pass: Cinema & Co facing court over law breach

Anna Redfern, owner of Cinema & Co in Swansea, made the decision not to follow the Covid pass scheme last week.

A cinema owner who announced she would not implement the Welsh Government's Covid pass scheme, is facing court action.

Swansea Council is seeking a court order to shut independent cinema and coffee shop Cinema & Co after its boss said she would not enforce the coronavirus measures and described them as "discriminatory and unlawful".

However a district judge sitting at Swansea Magistrates' Court on Thursday expressed his concerns at the application by the council and the matter has been adjourned to next week for written submissions on the powers the council is seeking to use.

The business was closed down temporarily last Thursday (November 18) evening, with notices pinned to the outside of the premises Credit: Media Wales

A barrister for the local authority urged the shortest possible adjournment to the hearing given "the state" of the premises involved and "inflammatory" statements the owner is posting online. The boss of Cinema & Co, Anna Redfern, did not attend Thursday's hearing.

Miss Redfern previously said she would not comply with the Welsh government rules - describing it as "the final nail in the coffin".

The venue remained open last week, despite a notice to close by Swansea council.

The council said in response that it was considering further steps to ensure the venue complied with the current Covid regulations. On Thursday it took that next step and sought a court order.

The order claimed a number of breaches including:

  • A lack of a Covid risk assessment.

  • Not informing staff of measures to try to reduce the spread of Covid.

  • A lack of signs and cleaning materials.

However, district judge, Neale Thomas, questioned whether it was "proper and legal" for the local authority to seek a closure order under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to effect action under Covid regulations, noting the Welsh Government had chosen not to include closure powers in its coronavirus legislation.

He asked for written submissions from the local authority on the matter and adjourned the hearing to November 30.

Lee Reynolds, barrister for the council, said the local authority was concerned about any adjournment in proceedings given "the state" of the premises. He said there were "limited enforcement powers" under the Covid regulations in cases "where a person simply refuses to comply".He added: "The respondent (Miss Redfern) is making assertions in the press and posting matters online that are inflammatory. This is a premises which simply seems to think that the pandemic does not exist.

"It is being painted as an attack on the cinema industry. That is far from it. The cinema sector has behaved impeccably."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “As a result of breaches of the Coronavirus Regulations identified by Swansea Council, the premises was served with a notice requiring it to close due to the risk to public health.

"As the owner has chosen not to comply with this legal requirement, enforcement action is being pursued. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on ongoing legal proceedings.”

The Covid pass scheme, which applies to anyone over the age of 18, was introduced by the Welsh government on October 11 for nightclubs and large-scale events.

However, anyone wanting to go to the theatre, concert halls and cinemas must now also show the pass to prove they are either fully vaccinated or have had a negative lateral flow test result within the past 48 hours.

In a Facebook post, Cinema & Co said the new rules were "unfair and killing the entertainment industry".

"Businesses are living in fear of losing their livelihoods and I'm in the exact same position, I didn't want to pretend to comply anymore out of fear".

The decision not to follow the rules was met with mixed reaction on social media - with some criticising the decision as "reckless", while others supported the stance, calling it "courageous".

Welsh government regulations state that businesses have to complete a risk assessment before opening and that should include whether a Covid pass is needed and how it would be enforced.

Read more: