Five Brits jailed for two weeks over lockdown rules after buying lunch in Tesco
Families of five welders arrested and jailed for 14 days for shopping in a Tesco for their lunch have blasted ‘mind-boggling’ coronavirus rules.
The stunned men – who were led away in handcuffs in a police swoop – began their sentences this week.
One relative said: “They’re in jail and yet the politicians break the rules and get away with it.
“They still don’t know what they’ve done wrong. The regulations are mind-boggling.”
The welders, aged 18 to 62 and from Doncaster, had all worn face masks during a quick shopping trip after getting off the morning ferry to Isle of Man capital Douglas.
But the masks, compulsory in UK shops, ironically led to their arrests for breaching island rules that key workers from the mainland must stay in their accommodation unless at work.
While the Isle of Man is a Crown dependency and its citizens are British, it is not in the UK and sets its own laws.
Just after the men reached the hotel they had booked for their two days’ work on a railway, the police arrived.
A resident had tipped them off, believing the men could not be local because they all wore masks not compulsory in island shops.
Helen Smith, 38, whose husband Michael, 43, and 18-year-old son Jack are now behind bars, stormed: “They’ve been treated like serious criminals when the sensible thing was to have a word in their ear.
“It makes me so angry to think they’re in jail and yet politicians break rules and get away with it.”
Shop worker Helen told how her husband called on Tuesday to say they had arrived safely – then didn’t hear from him again until Friday when he was in prison.
“He said they were shocked when the police turned up mob-handed at the hotel,” she said.
“They put them all in handcuffs and took them to the station. Jack was really upset.
“They only wanted to get some sandwiches for their lunch the next day. What were they meant to do otherwise? Starve?”
Lisa Fletcher, 50, mum of welder Luke, 22, insisted the workers – who arrived in Douglas by ferry from Heysham, Lancs – would not have deliberately broken the law.
She said: “The rules are different from one place to the next. Even the politicians don’t know them. But you’d never expect in a million years that going to Tesco to buy food would land you in jail.”
On the same day the welders were arrested, PM Boris Johnson had to apologise for getting his own Covid rules from the North East of England wrong – not knowing how many people could gather indoors.
Also on Tuesday, Boris’ dad Stanley, 80, was pictured in a London newsagents without a face mask, risking a £200 fine, and later said he was “extremely sorry”.
That wouldn’t have helped him on the isle of Man. Appearing before magistrates by video link on Thursday all five welders – who were told to wear masks in court – pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Covid-19 restrictions under the island’s Emergency Powers Act.
The prosecution said a supervisor who had travelled over with the men had advised them not to enter the shop.
The men’s defence advocates told the court their exemption certificates had been left on the dashboard of their vehicles and they had not read them properly.
Sentencing them to 14 days jail, magistrate chairman Belinda Pilling said the men had “closed their eyes” to the rules. The other two jailed were Robbie Rhodes, 18, and 62-year-old Christopher Leroy Lafayette.
Luke’s devastated mum condemned the sentence – saying their lad had never been in trouble and had always upheld Covid rules. Lisa said: “Before he went he downloaded the test and trace app on his phone. We were saying to him ‘make sure you wear your face mask’.
“He’s done exactly what we said. We thought what we were telling him was right but it turns out it’s wrong.”
Dad Kevin, 53, added: “The rules are just all over the place. It’s absolutely ludicrous that they are in prison.”
What infuriates the families even more are the likes of Dominic Cummings and SNP MP Margaret Ferrier breaking rules here but not being arrested. Cummings, the PM’s senior adviser, drove 260 miles from London to Durham during lockdown while suffering Covid symptoms.
SNP MP Ferrier this week admitted travelling from Glasgow to speak in the Commons after developing coronavirus symptoms, and then taking a train back to Scotland after testing positive.
She is facing calls to resign and a police investigation.
Lisa said: “It’s one rule for them and another for us.” The five workmen are expected to complete half of their 14 days sentence and will be returned to the mainland tomorrow. It is expected they will be escorted from the prison to the ferry and will be banned from returning to the Isle of Man.
When contacted a representative for the men’s firm, Haigh Rail Ltd, said: “We will not be commenting on that.”
There are currently no social distancing rules on Isle of Man, which has a population of about 84,000.
Pubs, cinemas and restaurants are open as usual.
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