Lidl shopper with asthma fined £200 and claimed he was handcuffed in mask row

Jonathan O’Hagan had his fine quashed

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A shopper with asthma has had a £200 fine for not wearing his face mask in a branch of Lidl quashed following claims he was handcuffed.

Jonathan O'Hagan alleged he was restrained and searched after police officers demanded to know why he was not wearing a face covering.

The 28-year-old security guard said he told them he had asthma and was exempt – but claimed one of the officers demanded his details and threatened to arrest him.

Mr O'Hagan said he insisted he did not "need to disclose his medical history" but alleged he was eventually handcuffed in front of other shoppers and taken outside.

A letter seen by Birmingham Live showed his fine was later quashed.

The incident happened at Lidl in Bilston High Street at around 5pm on Saturday, October 2.

He had been shopping at the Lidl

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He claims: "After using force to grab my hand they placed me in handcuffs. They also decided to search me.

"It was extremely embarrassing.

"A member of the public handed me a face mask, which I put on, in attempt to satisfy the officers. This was against my wish but I felt under a lot of threat and panic from the officers."

"I'd forgotten my phone, my wallet, my inhaler and they kept going: 'You need to prove it, you need to prove it'.

"I explained – as per the Government website – you don't have to have a card on you and it was just a verbal thing you needed to say."

Mr O'Hagan said his partner returned home to collect his exemption cards and inhaler to show the officers.

"But that wasn't enough," he added. "They took me out of handcuffs, de-arrested me and had a look at my records but said that, because my inhaler didn't have my name on it, they would still have to fine me."

Mr O'Hagan appealed the fine and just 13 days later the fixed penalty notice was quashed.

He has now submitted an official complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

He said: "Putting me into cuffs and also giving me a fine because my inhaler didn't have my name on is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

"Since this event, I can't walk into a shop without my anxiety levels rising.

"I have not been out shopping since this event took place."

The Government website says those "less able" to wear masks includes "people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability".

And in July, charity Asthma UK highlighted that people with respiratory conditions did not need to wear face masks if they are found it hard to breathe.

A force spokesman said of the incident involving Mr O'Hagan: "These are challenging times and our officers are adapting to the new legislation and guidance which has changed many times during the pandemic.

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"Government law says that no person may, without reasonable excuse, enter or remain within a relevant place without wearing a face covering.

"Our officers continue to use the four E's approach – Engage, Explain, Encourage and as a last resort Enforce. Where they believe a person is being untruthful about their reasonable excuse, they can issue a Fixed Penalty Notice, and then it is up to that person to challenge it via ACRO (Criminal Records Office).

"We understand that these restrictions are difficult for everyone, but we must all follow the rules to overcome this pandemic."

An IOPC spokesperson said: "We received a direct complaint in relation to this matter on 6 October. In line with normal procedure we sent it to West Midlands Police for them to make a recording decision and determine whether it met the criteria for a referral to us."

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