A Bristol tattooist found guilty of Covid breaches could face prosecution again if he does not pay an earlier fine.
The defendant, named as Aaron Walton on the court file, ignored lockdown when he traded from Holey Skin, Gloucester Road, on November 13 last year.
His case was heard on Monday (August 9) at Bristol Magistrates’ Court, where he was found guilty of failing to comply with a notice prohibiting opening, as well as obstructing a Bristol City Council enforcement officer.
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Walton, who did not attend the hearing, received penalties and costs totalling £20,864.94 — and he could be prosecuted again if he does not pay a previous fixed penalty notice.
The Hartcliffe resident received a £1,000 fine on November 13, when an environmental health officer from the council handed him a fixed penalty notice. Her team seized six pieces of his equipment because he had continued to open his non-essential business during lockdown.
It was Walton’s refusal to close the studio that day which led to this week’s court case, on top of the initial £1,000 fixed penalty notice.
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A council spokesperson said: “Anyone issued with a fixed penalty notice (FPN) has 28 days in which to pay it. Should this not be paid, further legal action will be taken and appropriate steps taken to enforce the notice.”
In any case where payment of an FPN is not received, further legal action is taken — and this can lead to prosecution, says the council.
Following his sentencing on Monday, Walton must pay £12,500 in fines, prosecution costs of £8,174.94 and a £190 victim services surcharge.
Because Bristol City Council carried out this prosecution, Walton’s payment of prosecution costs would go to the local authority.
Asked what steps could be taken to ensure this is paid, a council spokesperson said that in criminal cases, it “would be for the court to recover the costs and send to us or enforce”.
Days before the November 13 incident, Walton had told a police officer he would be “issuing £10,000 fines for any more visits” from authorities to the tattoo parlour. He complained that police had attended seven times during the second lockdown.
The council said at the time that this came after “persistent breaches of Covid-19 rules despite repeated requests to comply”.
At least nine police officers and several council officers were joined by a locksmith at the studio on November 13. The locksmith forced entry while Walton told him: “Don’t blow through the hole please, you could have Covid.”
Walton warned council officers he would “bill them for the damage” caused to his door. As the environmental health officer handed him the fine, he said: “I do not consent, I do not accept it.”
When the council entered his premises, he protested: “You have no wet signature from a judge. You have no authority here. You have no jurisdiction here. I stand under common law. You are committing criminal offences against me right now.”
A small group of protesters gathered outside, shouting criticism of the lockdown and Government.
In the following days, Walton continued to post videos online, saying he did not “consent” to the penalty, as well as voicing Covid-denial conspiracy theories.
Although the council issued the fine and seized equipment, Walton reopened the business on November 24, falsely citing Magna Carta as a defence.
The following day, police fined four people £200 each for breaching Covid rules at the studio. It is not known whether Mr Walton was among those fined £200 by police.
Mr Walton has repeatedly presented arguments against lockdown which appear to be rooted in the “freeman on the land” conspiracy theory. According to the theory, laws only apply to people with their consent. No such argument has ever succeeded in court.
Common law is created by the judiciary through its decisions in the courts, under the principle of binding precedent. But it is overruled by statutory laws passed by Parliament – such as the Covid legislation – under the constitutional principle that Parliament is sovereign.
Last September, Walton claimed he flew from Zante to Bristol Airport on an easyJet flight carrying three passengers who later tested positive for Covid-19.
Bristol Live revealed Walton kept going into his tattoo shop in the following days, saying he did not “consent” after Test and Trace identified him as a contact of someone who tested positive.