A former Bristol City player has been fined more than £4,500 after claiming an 800-year-old document allowed him to keep his soft play centre open during lockdown.
Bradley Orr, who made more than 200 appearances for the Robins between 2004 and 2010 and also played for QPR and Blackburn Rovers, racked up the huge fines after he was found repeatedly ignoring Covid laws at his soft play centre in Everton.
Despite tier-three regulations requiring soft play centres to close last year, Orr kept Cirque-d-Play open, prompting repeated visits by Liverpool Council and Merseyside Police officers, the Liverpool Echo reports.
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During these visits, court documents have revealed, Orr falsely asserted that Magna Carta – a royal charter of rights agreed by King John of England in 1215 – meant Covid laws did not apply to him, but his refusal to follow Covid restrictions only saw him end up in court.
Officers said that Orr acted “in a childish manner” when the police arrived at the premises and claimed Covid-19 was “make-believe” and there was “no scientist [sic] proof around it on the government website”.
The 38-year-old was summoned to court twice this year, once on April 30 and once on May 7, for failing to comply with covid rules in October and November 2020, when Liverpool was under tier three restrictions.
His cases were dealt with under the single justice procedure (SJP), which allows a magistrate to decide a case based only on written statements.
In those statements, police officers said Orr had refused to listen to them and claimed that Covid-19 was “make-believe”.
One statement, from PC Alex Broadbent, said he and another officer attended Cirq-d-Play on November 1, just one day after council environmental health officers had been to the soft play centre and issued Orr with a fixed penalty notice for still being open.
PC Broadbent said: “On entering I was immediately aware that there were numerous members of the public present with children playing and using the facilities. I could also see members of staff working, wearing face coverings.”
He then began speaking to an unidentified man, later revealed to be Orr, and tried to explain that the business was in breach of Covid regulations.
However, Orr only replied: “I am not entering into a contract with you, I refuse to stand under you.”
PC Broadbent added: “Orr pointed out that he had an extract from the Magna Carta on the front door of his property which he asked me to read.”
The false belief that Magna Carta allows people to exempt themselves from certain laws has become popular among online groups that believe Covid-19 is not real.
They claim that Clause 61 of the 1215 agreement between King John and rebel barons means they can ignore laws they deem “unjust”.
However, there is no truth to this. Clause 61 was struck out of Magna Carta in 1216 and only applied to a small group of barons in the first place. Even when it was in force, it did not allow individuals to opt-out of laws they did not like.
Officers returned to Cirq-d-Play on November 7 when it was again open.
In a statement to the court, PC Matthew Edwards said Orr had acted “in a childish manner” when the police arrived at the premises and claimed Covid-19 was “make-believe” and there was “no scientist [sic] proof around it on the government website”.
PC Edwards said: “Orr began to quote that the Health Regulations 2020 were only legislations and not law and that he only listened to common law.
“Despite my pleads [sic] for him to see sense and close the business, encouraging him to do so and help the NHS fight this pandemic, he was selfishly dismissive over it and acting in a childlike manner would not listen and continued to argue.”
Orr, of Falkner Street, Liverpool, did not respond to either summons to court and was convicted of two counts of contravening a prohibition notice served under the Tier 3 regulations.
He was fined £3,960 in total and ordered to pay another £200 in costs and £366 as a surcharge for victim services.