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Gym owner sees ‘flimsy’ case against him for keeping his gym open during second lockdown dropped

Gym owner sees 'flimsy' case against him for keeping his gym open during second lockdown dropped 2

A gym owner who faced a £10,000 fine for keeping his gym open during the second lockdown has seen the ‘flimsy’ and ‘inept’ case against him dropped.

Alex Lowndes, who owns Gainz Fitness and Strength in St Neots and Bedford in Cambridgeshire, refused to close his gym in November 2020 after Covid-19 restrictions were imposed. 

Mr Lowndes’ gym was subsequently raided by police and he was charged with a breach of lockdown regulations, which he denied.

Mr Lowndes failed to pay the fixed penalty notice and was due to stand trial last March, however the case collapsed because the authority failed to gather enough evidence. 

Bedford Borough Council said the case was in the ‘public interest’, they enforced the rules at the time and that there was ‘ample evidence for a successful prosecution’. 

Alex Lowndes (right), who owns Gainz Fitness and Strength in St Neots and Bedford in Cambridgeshire, refused to close his gym in November 2020 after Covid-19 restrictions were imposed

Alex Lowndes (right), who owns Gainz Fitness and Strength in St Neots and Bedford in Cambridgeshire, refused to close his gym in November 2020 after Covid-19 restrictions were imposed

Mr Lowndes told the BBC: ‘They [the council] should have looked at it even six months in and gone ‘this is a waste of time’.

‘But they kept going and they kept going, they brought in an external barrister, they kept spending money, and it just got out of control.’

He added: ‘[Contesting the case] was based on principle. We should never have shut in the first place and we stand by what we did at the time.’

MailOnline has contacted Bedford Borough Council for comment.  

At the time, Mr Lowndes said he was willing to accept the potential fine. 

Mr Lowndes' gym was subsequently raided by police (pictured) and he was charged with a breach of lockdown regulations, which he denied

 Mr Lowndes’ gym was subsequently raided by police (pictured) and he was charged with a breach of lockdown regulations, which he denied

‘The science doesn’t back the shutdown of gyms. Garden centres are essential but gyms aren’t? It’s a farce,’ he said.

‘None of us have got huge wads of money but this is bigger than £10,000. If they shut us down now then they’ll keep shutting us down.

‘Gyms are part of the solution here, not part of the problem. We need to be allowed to stay open. We are going to stay open.’

Mr Lowndes added: ‘The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve had pledges with people offering to help out with a fine if that happens.’

Responding to the suggestion he would be contributing to spreading coronavirus by staying open, Alex said: ‘If you want to take that stance you should look at schools and universities.

Mr Lowndes failed to pay the fixed penalty notice and was due to stand trial last March, however the case collapsed because the authority failed to gather enough evidence

Mr Lowndes failed to pay the fixed penalty notice and was due to stand trial last March, however the case collapsed because the authority failed to gather enough evidence 

‘You’ve got to shut down everything if you’re doing a lockdown.’

The gym owner’s decision was met with a mixed reaction on Facebook.

One social media user, who claims to be a member at Gainz, said he was cancelling his membership as a result.

He explained: ‘As a member of the scientific community I cannot condone this and will have to resign my membership I’m afraid.

‘I had paid a whole year and had not asked for refund or extension during the last lockdown. Very happy to support a local business but not this attitude.’

Others praised Alex for pushing back at the lockdown measures, with another writing: ‘Good for him.

Bedford Borough Council said the case was in the 'public interest', they enforced the rules at the time and that there was 'ample evidence for a successful prosecution'

Bedford Borough Council said the case was in the ‘public interest’, they enforced the rules at the time and that there was ‘ample evidence for a successful prosecution’

Alex Lowndes (pictured above), who owns Gainz Fitness and Strength in Cambridgeshire, is also willing to face a potential fine of up to £10,000

At the time, Mr Lowndes said he was willing to accept the potential fine

‘Businesses need to push back against these unnecessary draconian measures!’

Gyms were ordered to shut their doors under lockdown rules in 2020 but the government confirmed they would lift the ban from December 2 under a tier system. 

Many gyms up and down the country refused to shut their doors during restrictions, claiming they provide a vital service that improves both physical and mental health.

Criminal defence lawyer Lucinda Nicholls, of Nicholls & Nicholls, told the BBC that she has successfully defended 23 similar cases.

‘The biggest issue is enforcement of the legislation – the law hasn’t been followed, but councils and prosecutors doggedly insist on proceeding, it makes no sense,’ she said.  

Criminal defence lawyer Lucinda Nicholls (above), of Nicholls & Nicholls, told the BBC that she has successfully defended 23 similar cases

Criminal defence lawyer Lucinda Nicholls (above), of Nicholls & Nicholls, told the BBC that she has successfully defended 23 similar cases

Nick Whitcombe defied the government’s tougher lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton, Merseyside – saying ‘he won’t have one to come back to’ if he did.

But he was quickly slapped with a £1,000 fine, after a member of the public reported the gym was still open, before armed officers turned up at the gym to demand he close it.

The gym boss then launched a campaign in which he vowed to stay open to members despite the threat of fines and closure. 

Steven Todd of Reps Gym in Preston, Lancs, ignored 11 previous warnings and fixed penalty notices ordering him to close his doors during the national lockdown.

He claimed his gym provided an important public service to protect the mental health of its users.

But Preston City Council was granted a Closure Order on the 10,000 square foot gym. 

Nick Whitcombe defied the government's tougher lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton

In a video he said he had won support from police, MPs and the mayors of the city

Nick Whitcombe defied the government’s tougher lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton – saying ‘he won’t have one to come back to’ if he did

Preston Magistrates' Court granted a closure order on Reps, the gym owned by Steven Todd (above)

Preston Magistrates’ Court granted a closure order on Reps, the gym owned by Steven Todd (above)

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