Man who ‘needed social contact’ found guilty of breaching coronavirus rules

A sign warning people to observe social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic Picture: Chris B

A sign warning people to observe social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

A man found guilty of breaching coronavirus rules in the first week of lockdown told officers he was “just seeing a friend” and that the government “couldn’t control him”.

Allan Scott was found sitting on the floor selling paintings outside Farm Foods during the height of

Allan Scott was found sitting on the floor selling paintings outside Farm Foods during the height of national lockdown. Photo: Google - Credit: Archant

Allan Scott, 40, of Lowestoft Road, Gorleston, was found guilty of contravening restrictions on movement during the emergency period by begging and selling paintings in Gorleston on March 31 and April 8, and by travelling to “visit a friend” in Great Yarmouth on April 8 without reasonable excuse.

He was also found guilty of peddling without a pedlar’s certificate by selling the paintings on the street when he appeared at Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court on October 2.

Scott had claimed he wasn’t subject to the charges because he was homeless, and the Health Protection (Coronavirus Regulations) Act exempts those who are homeless from the restrictions on movement.

But magistrates concluded Scott was not homeless during this time and was subject to prosecution.

According to PC Blaydon, who stood as a witness, Scott “positioned himself” outside Farm Foods in Gorleston on both March 31 and April 8 as he sat selling his paintings.

Mr Blaydon said: “I explained to Mr Scott the government’s coronavirus restrictions - that people were unable to leave their homes without reasonable excuse - but Mr Scott told me they were ‘only guidelines’.”

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PC Carroll, who also gave evidence, spoke to Scott on April 8 in Great Yarmouth on Regent Road at around 9.30pm, when he said he was going to see a friend.

“During my conversation with him he said that ‘Covid was made up’ and that the government could not control him,” he said.

But the defendant, who gave evidence himself, said he’d come to rely on the group that congregate at Farm Foods after the death of his father and nan when he became dependent on drugs and alcohol.

He said: “I was really isolated at that time. It was like I’d been in my own lockdown for years and years.

“I needed social contact because I’m a social man, and went to Farm Foods for my mental health and wellbeing. I thought that was a reasonable excuse.”

Debbie Reynolds, mitigating, said Scott was confined to “one bedroom” at the B&B he was living in at the time, and that this led to a “fragile mental state”.

But Mark Jackson, prosecuting, said that the rules were designed to be “draconian” at a time of national emergency.

He said: “I’m sure Mr Scott suffered greatly during this time, but so did a lot of people.”

Chair of the Bench, Jane Bowles, agreed that on the “balance of probabilities and beyond reasonable doubt” the defence did not show Scott had a resonable excuse to be out of the house on the dates in question.

She said: “You are guilty as charged. We were all in the same boat - we had one hour out of the house per day and that was it.”

Sentencing was postponed for a court date to be arranged in the future.