Resort man fined £1,500 for ‘joining anti-vax protest’ which started near Blackpool Tower and the Comedy Carpet and moved towards Metropole Hotel

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The decision to join an anti-vaccination protest at the peak of the Covid outbreak has cost a man more than £1,500.

 

Stephen McAlroy, 51, was found guilty after a trial of breaching emergency regulations.

In the first prosecution of its type in the county, McAlroy of Taylor Terrace, Blackpool, was charged with participating in a gathering of more than six people in a public outdoor place.

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Blackpool Magistrates' Court

Blackpool Magistrates’ Court

The gathering, staged by anti-vaccination protesters, took place on November 1 last year at a time Blackpool was under tier three restrictions.

The protest started on the Comedy Carpet near the Tower and then moved north to the Middle Walk area near the Metropole Hotel, Blackpool Magistrates’ Court was told yesterday.

Police witnesses, who gave evidence, said they had seen McAlroy, who wore a high visibility jacket, milling amongst 100 to 150 protesters, some of whom were involved in a protest about the police handling of the inquiry into missing schoolgirl Charlene Downes.

PC Jonathan Graham told the hearing that only a few protesters wore masks and others failed to social distance.

During the incident some protesters were “quite hostile”, the court was told.

At one stage, McAlroy moved away from the main group but returned later. He was asked to leave again but refused and was then warned he could be prosecuted.

Magistrates were shown police bodycam footage of the incident and McAlroy produced footage of what he said had gone on.

He told the court he had followed the protest out of interest in what was going on and claimed he had not mixed with more than 100 people.

“I was on my own,” he said. “It was a case of me being at the wrong place at the wrong time and because I had the high viz jacket on.

“I was not part of any group there that day.”