Swansea duo fined for traveling to anti-Covid test protest at Liverpool school
Chris McKeon, local democracy reporter
Three people, including a couple from Swansea, who harassed the headteacher of a Liverpool high school over Covid testing have been fined more than £2,000 for breaking lockdown laws.
The trio – Andrea Rimmer, Lisa Holt and Wesley Garner – provoked anger after filming themselves and a fourth person confronting staff at Calderstones School on November 9 last year because pupils were being tested for Covid-19.
In their video, the group claimed that Covid-19 was a “lie” and a “fraud” and shouted at pupils through a megaphone telling them not to get tested.
They had turned up at the school after armed forces personnel had arrived to help with the testing, which was entirely voluntary and only carried out with the consent of pupils’ parents.
The group also harassed military personnel and surrounded the school’s headteacher, one saying: “If you are the headteacher, we will put you on notice, if anything happens to these children getting tested for Covid-19 – absolute disgrace, this will be going further.”
Their antics brought swift condemnation from neighbours, pupils and politicians, with then-mayor Joe Anderson saying: “They are harassing school staff, intimidating and shouting at kids, their behaviour is totally unforgivable and I would like to see the police respond.”
One parent, Jo Fairclough, tweeted: “Fuming. This is my daughter’s school and this headteacher is one of the best headteachers I’ve met.
“He does everything with the best interests of the students at heart and has handled the whole covid situation excellently.
“What a bunch of absolute idiots, unbelievable.”
Following coverage of the incident in local and national media, Merseyside Police were inundated with complaints prompting an investigation to discover the identity of those involved.
Two of the group – 42-year-old Garner and his partner, Holt, 43 – were identified by witnesses who had seen the video.
The pair had travelled more than 100 miles from their home in Morriston, on the outskirts of Swansea despite restrictions on travel around the country that had been introduced five days earlier.
Rimmer, 39, of Stradbroke Road in Wavertree, was subsequently identified as the driver of the vehicle the group was travelling in.
Attempts to identify the fourth person were still ongoing when the trio were issued with notices that they were going to be prosecuted for breaking Covid-19 restrictions by gathering outdoors in a group of more than two people and leaving their homes without a reasonable excuse.
In a witness statement, investigating officer PC Jordan Royle said: “Due to the location of this incident occurring outside a high school, the current restrictions the people of Merseyside and people across the [country] have been adhering to, the amount of calls about the incident, the social media interest and national newspaper coverage, the police must be seen to take action against these offenders.”
They were eventually charged only with participating in an outdoor gathering of more than two people and their cases were dealt with in a behind-closed-doors hearing at Wirral Magistrates’ Court on May 7.
Documents from the hearing, finally released to the LDRS, show none of the three responded to the notice that they were being prosecuted and they were found guilty by magistrate Penelope Barker on the basis of police statements.
Mrs Barker fined each of them £1,760. They must each also pay costs of £100 and a surcharge of £176 towards victim services, resulting in a total fine of £2,036 each.