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Council seeks court support for 'immediate closure' of Christian bookshop slapped with £17,000 fine for breaking lockdown regulations

by Chantalle Edmunds

A Nottinghamshire Council has told Premier it's seeking support from the courts to secure the immediate closure of a Christian bookshop for failing to abide by the lockdown. 

In a statement, the leader of Gedling Borough Council, Councillor John Clarke, said enforcement officers had visited The Mustard Seed Bookshop in Gedling and issued four fixed penalty notices totalling £17,000 for failing to comply with regulations to close to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Chris Stala who owns the bookshop had cited her Christian faith, the Magna Carta and common law as grounds for staying open.

The statement from Gedling Council said:

"We have tried to work with this business but unfortunately they have continually ignored our warnings and national regulations and persisted to remain open, creating a public health risk and potentially spreading the virus. They have left us with no other choice but to use enforcement action against them, seeking support from the courts to secure immediate closure. 

"I'd like to thank the majority of other businesses out there who have worked with us and followed the government guidance to keep our communities safe throughout this current lockdown. It is vitally important that we all follow national guidance to protect ourselves and others. We will not tolerate flaunting of these rules by any business - flagrantly disregarding the rules puts our communities at risk."

On Saturday, two men were arrested at the bookshop and tearoom after it refused to obey Covid-19 restrictions and remained open to customers. 

One man has since been charged with obstructing a police officer and breaching Covid-19 regulations. Shaun Everest, 47, has been granted conditional bail to appear at Nottingham Magistrates' Court on 29th January 2021.

A 53-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of failing to provide his details to police while they attempted to issue a Covid fixed penalty notice. He was released having provided his details and was issued with a £200 fixed penalty notice.

Chris Stala was once again visited by police officers on Monday and remained open on Tuesday to decorate her shop window with what she called "evidence against the pandemic", which she believes is exaggerated.

Speaking to Premier, before Gedling Council's statement was issued, Ms Stala said she hoped to remain open as a community hub to help those with mental health problems and to offer food for takeaway.

She added that she wasn't afraid to be arrested and that her faith was keeping her going. 

"I feel like I can do none else, a bit like Martin Luther. This is a righteous stand...cos that's why I've stopped, I'm not trading as such, I didn't take any money yesterday."

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