Armed police fine Merseyside gym owner after he refused to close under tier 3 rules

15 October 2020, 09:04 | Updated: 15 October 2020, 09:21

By Kate Buck

A Merseyside gym owner has been fined £1,000 by police after he refused to close the premises as Tier 3 lockdown rules came into force.

Officers attended at Body Tech Fitness in Moreton, Wirral, twice on Wednesday but the owner, Nick Whitcombe, said on his Instagram page the gym would be staying open.

But police were called to his premises at 8.35am on Wednesday morning by a member of the public who noticed the facility was open.

He had previously warned that it if his gym had to close again, its members "wouldn't have one to come back to".

Read more: Boris Johnson resists calls for repeat road to nowhere Covid lockdown

Mr Whitcombe shared the footage on his Facebook page and said: "We have just received our first £1,000 fine at Body Tech. After meeting with the police yesterday, they told us we would get a warning first day, then a second warning, £100 fine, £200 fine and so on.

"They were with us this morning, gave us our warning. Then came back this afternoon, orders from their top boss to issue a fine straight away.'So, they've told us 'close immediately' or I'll take a £1,000 fine. 

Nick Whitcombe, said on his Instagram page the gym would be staying open.
Nick Whitcombe, said on his Instagram page the gym would be staying open. Picture: Nick Whitcombe

"Obviously we still had quite a lot of members training and I said to the officers, 'I'm not asking anyone to leave. Even if I am I'm going to let them finish their sessions first'.

"So they've issued the fine. First one's £1,000. They can come back in three hours and issue £2,000. Three hours after that £4,000.'It's disappointing.

Read more: 'These pictures shame our city': Huge crowd in Liverpool ahead of new Covid rules

"They sent out seven or eight firearms officers, what a waste of resources."

A Gofundme page set up to help the gym with any legal costs has raised more than £24,000.

Chief Superintendent Claire Richards said: “We understand that people are frustrated with the current situation and for a number of local businesses, including the fitness and leisure industry, this will be particularly hard.

“It’s not that long ago that gyms reopened their doors after lockdown and they did so after making huge changes to the way they work for the safety and protection of their customers.

He said the presence of armed officers was a "waste of resources"
He said the presence of armed officers was a "waste of resources". Picture: Nick Whitcombe

“But while this lockdown does present huge challenges, the focus of us all should now be on preventing the spread of the virus and getting us back to normality as safely and as quickly as possible.

“The new restrictions have been brought in to try to achieve that, and if we don’t act decisively and collaboratively, the impact could be harder and last even longer.

“We will therefore continue to encourage members of the public and businesses to adhere to the guidance, explain why they should and – as in this case - use enforcement where there are clear breaches of legislation."
The UK's largest gym chain, Pure Gym, has said it is considering legal action over the decision to close gyms and fitness centres in Liverpool.

A petition calling for the Government to prevent gyms closing as a measure to stop the spread of Covid-19 has been signed by more than 131,000 people.

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