Swansea Cinema & Co owner handed £15,000 fine and suspended prison sentence

Anna Redfern vowed to "take a stand" against the Covid pass scheme which applied to cinemas across Wales.

The owner of Cinema & Co in Swansea has been given a £15,000 fine and a suspended prison sentence after refusing to comply with coronavirus rules.

Anna Redfern vowed to "take a stand" against the Covid pass scheme which applied to cinemas, theatres and concert halls.

The independent venue continued trading despite being told to shut by the Welsh Government. The owner also ignored a judge's direction to close and instead re-opened.

The businesswoman, who this week said her own mother is seriously ill, found herself back in court and risking a prison sentence for being in contempt of court.

Prosecuting solicitor Lee Reynolds told Swansea Magistrates' Court that Ms Redfern's refusal to follow public health rules was both "deliberate and concerted".

He added: "It didn’t need to get this far, a simple indication that matters would be put right and Covid rules would be adhered to would have satisfied the local authority.

"It has been a deliberate and concerted effort designed only to frustrate the attempt by the local authority to ensure compliance.

"These proceedings have been expensive, they need not have been."

Swansea Council bolted the business' shutters to the floor on December 11.

Cinema & Co, which also hosts a variety of events and gatherings, was initially ordered to shut on November 19.

Owner Ms Redfern described the measures against cinemas as "discriminatory and unlawful".

On November 30, a court judge rejected her appeal to dismiss the case and ordered the venue to follow Covid-19 regulations and respect the council's closing order.

Ms Redfern was also told to pay the council's legal costs of £5,265. Soon after, the cinema re-opened with a Christmas film screening.

Last week, Cinema & Co announced it would be cancelling its film schedule for the rest of the year to deal with family reasons.

Swansea Council however said it was taking no chances and bolted the business' shutters to the floor on December 11.

On Tuesday, Ms Redfern arrived at Swansea Magistrates' Court along with her brother Noah and former Senedd Member Neil McEvoy. A handful of supporters were also outside the court.

Ms Redfern admitted to District Judge Neale Thomas that she had been in contempt of court and also accepted two counts of failing to comply with the Coronavirus Act 2020 and criminal damage.

Defence solicitor Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards asked the court to be lenient with his client.

He explained: "My client runs a small independent cinema and in these circumstances it is not a source of wealth. My client does not run it principally for profit. My client is a person of many other praiseworthy attributes.

"Many of her cinema shows are free for the homeless. She would like to be able to sing in a choir but cannot because that is one of the activities made difficult in these circumstances. She had to pick ways open to her and they did involve breaking the law.

"The conversation is whether the court can allow some mitigation when considering what her motives were. It’s probably too late but she took advice which brought the protest to an end. This could have been dealt with earlier.

The cinema owner was given a 28 day prison sentence suspended for nine months and a combined fine of £15,000.

District Judge Thomas said it was clear that Ms Redfern had broken the law.

He said: "There’s no such thing as a justified contempt of court and the issue that arose between the two parties was overtaken by an imposition of that order. Court orders are there to be obeyed, compliance is not an option.”

Ms Redfern was given a 28 day prison sentence suspended for nine months and a combined fine of £15,000.

She will also have 56 days to pay court costs of £8,940 and a victim surcharge of £190.

The judge said Ms Redfern was of previous good character and had worked hard to establish her business.

In a statement, she later said: "Going forward, the regulations will be followed to the letter.

"If a person states they are exempt from wearing a mask, that will be respected by Cinema Co and no questions will be asked. If a person presents without a Covid passport, they will be simply asked if they have an up to date lateral flow test.

"If the individual say they are legally exempt from this, that will be respected, they will not be asked further questions and they will be admitted to Cinema and Co. That’s the law, which I will take full advice.

"I am looking forward to re-opening and continuing to provide a much needed service for the whole community to enjoy. It will be lovely to get back to children’s birthday parties, events for the homeless and allowing people to access their right to culture.

"My priority now is caring for my terminally ill mother, who has been my inspiration and my strength throughout this whole traumatic ordeal."

In a statement, Anna Redfern said "going forward, the regulations will be followed to the letter".

A spokesman from Swansea council said: "We are pleased with the outcome of today’s court case after the owner of Cinema and Co pleaded guilty to five offences.

"We have tried to work with Cinema & Co to ensure their business is safe. However, all our efforts, including enforcement were not taken on board.

"We hope Cinema and Co will now work with us to introduce measures so that it can operate safely."