Man fined £2,000 after removing face mask in shop ‘for 16 seconds’


A man has said he was hit with a £2,000 fine after taking off his mask in a shop “for 16 seconds” because he felt sick.

Christopher O’Toole said he was wearing a face covering when he entered but began to feel unwell and briefly took the mask off as he left.

He said he was then approached by officers who took his name for not wearing a mask inside the store.

The incident happened in February last year, when rules stated that face masks had to be worn in shops, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Mr O’Toole said he had no problem wearing masks in public, but took them off briefly because he felt unwell.

Mr O’Toole said: “I was worried when the police pulled me over and I was just asking if I could go?

“They said I could go after I took my name and I thought that was it and didn’t think about it again.”

The 30-year-old from Wirral was in a B&M store in a shopping park in Prescot as it was close to where his father lived.

He said he thought nothing of the incident until he received a letter from the ACRO Criminal Records Office telling him he had to pay a £100 fine.

Mr O’Toole said he explained the reason he was not paying the fine – then received another letter telling him it was now £2,000.

He said: “I emailed them saying I wasn’t going to pay a fine for taking my mask off for something like 16 seconds – not a chance.

“I had no response from anyone for months until I received a letter in early December saying I owed £2,000.

Mr O’Toole added that he was concerned when he received the letter just before Christmas.

He said: “It was four weeks before Christmas and they wanted the full amount.

“They could have taken my full salary and I still couldn’t pay it.

“I emailed them back and found out he had gone to court without me knowing.

“I had to sign a solemn declaration to show that I was unaware.”

The ACRO Criminal Records Office, which imposed the fine on Mr O’Toole, was approached but said it does not comment on individual cases.

The ACRO said its role was to support the police response to the pandemic by administering fixed penalty notices.

ACRO verifies the accuracy of the notices before contacting the recipient and requests that the fine be paid within 28 days of the letter.

But if a recipient disputes the advice, the ACRO refers the file to the competent police.

Mr O’Toole is now set to take the matter to court, appearing in February.

He said: “I’m worried – but I want the chance to be able to argue my case.”

B&M has been approached for comment.

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