‘We’d rather go to prison’: Couple refuse to close their gift card shop during lockdown despite £1,000 fine

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read

Watch: Shop owners tell police they will not close for lockdown

A couple who were fined £1,000 for keeping their gift card shop open during lockdown have said they are prepared to risk going to jail rather than close.

Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox claim they sell essential items including newspapers, snacks and baking products and are therefore entitled to stay open during the current national lockdown in England.

Footage taken from inside their Grace Card and Books shop in Droitwich, Worcestershire, last week captured the moment police officers warned the owners they were breaking lockdown rules.

But the couple, who have seven children and have run the shop for 30 years, say they are prepared to risk going to jail.

Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox (left) have refused to shut their shop despite a fine and a visit from police officers (right). (SWNS)
Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox, left, have refused to shut their shop despite a fine and a visit from police officers, right. (SWNS)
Police officers paid a visit to the shop last week to warn the owners they were breaking the lockdown rules. (SWNS)
Police officers paid a visit to the shop last week to warn the owners they were breaking the lockdown rules. (SWNS)

Mr Walker-Cox, 54, said: “If we shut we won’t be able to pay suppliers, the rent, let alone support the family. If we open we can.

“We believe lockdowns do not work against the virus and on principle we want to open and support our family and suppliers instead.”

The couple argue that they should be allowed to remain open because they sell food and baking products as well as cards, gifts and books.

Watch: What will happen in England after lockdown?

Mrs Walker-Cox, 50, added: “We don’t sell anything that much different than WH Smith so why can they stay open but we cannot?

“We have a sugarcraft section which is very significant and everything to do with making cakes and provide stuff for people who run their own businesses from home.

“We’re definitely essential based on our sugarcraft section and we sell confectionary crisps and drinks as well.

“We’re willing to go all the way, it’s the principle now and we have got legal help.”

Non-essential shops were among places in England told to close for four weeks on 5 November to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Businesses can be fined by local authorities and the police if they fail to close with penalties starting from £1,000 for a first-time offence to £10,000 for the fourth and any subsequent offences.

But Mr and Mrs Walker-Cox say the second lockdown in England, which is due to end on 2 December, “should never have happened”.

Following the government announcing a temporary relaxing of coronavirus rules for Christmas, the couple say they “could be in the same situation again” in January.

Mrs Walker-Cox said: “We’re nailing our colours to the mast and saying we are a business that is going to stay open.”

The owners of Grace Card and Books told police they are entitled to remain open as they are selling essential items. (SWNS)
The owners of Grace Card and Books told police they are entitled to remain open as they are selling essential items. (SWNS)

Following the West Mercia Police visit to the shop last week, chief superintendent Paul Moxley said the force’s hands were tied by the rules.

He added: "This shop had already been advised previously by Wychavon District Council that they should not be open within the current restrictions and the shop had already been issued with a Prohibition Notice.

"We understand the restrictions can be challenging, and we know this business is well-loved in Droitwich, but the government legislation is in place to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and to keep us all safe.

Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox have run the shop for 30 years and say they are prepared to risk going to jail. (SWNS)
Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox have run the shop for 30 years and say they are prepared to risk going to jail. (SWNS)

“We all have a critical part to play in that."

Wychavon District Council defended the decision to fine the couple.

A spokesperson said: "The government made the decision on which type of businesses would and would not be allowed to trade and what they would be allowed to sell. We can only enforce the regulations."

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work