An elderly man who broke UK Covid lockdown rules by serving mince pies at wine at a shooting club has been jailed for six months – with the judge describing him as “anti-establishment”.
Maurice Snelling, 72, broke tier three Covid restrictions at Cloudside Shooting Grounds in Stoke-on-Trent in 2020.
At the time, public venues in Staffordshire were only permitted to operate as a take-away or drive through. The Court heard how Mr Snelling insisted his premises was in Cheshire, which was only in tier two, meaning that customers were allowed to drink alcohol inside a venue if it was accompanied by a “substantial meal”.
Snelling, who only spoke to confirm his name, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing, and was sentenced to six months behind bars on Tuesday 9 November.
The pensioner had claimed that because his grounds had a CW12 postcode, he had not breached Covid regulations in place at the time, the Local Democracy Reporting Service stated.
However, Circuit Judge David Fletcher did not accept this, saying Mr Snelling had lived in the area for thirty years, and had his bins emptied by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
“I find it hard to believe that Mr Snelling didn’t know which lockdown tier he was in,” he said.
The allegations over Mr Snelling serving wine and mince pies arose from residents reporting that gatherings were happening at the shooting club, in December 2020 and January 2021.
The court was told that Snelling failed to respond to Staffordshire Police’s requests for him to review CCTV footage. The court heard that Mr Snelling later got in touch with CCTV contractor, Welch Services, to ask if the hard drive could be removed from the system as the police investigation was underway.
In response, the company claimed it felt uncomfortable by Mr Snelling’s “demanding” demeanour and instead handed a copy to the police.
The Judge insisted that Mr Snelling is “anti-establishment”. He said the offence “strikes at the heart of justice”, adding: “[Snelling] is anti-establishment, especially to the police. He doesn’t like being told what to do. He treated police with resentment”.
Thomas Sherrington, representing Mr Snelling, spoke of the impact of events on his client, who he says has suffered multiple heart attacks since the events unfolded.
Mr Sherrington said his client was of the genuine belief that his premises fell into Cheshire. He said that since the launch of legal proceedings, Mr Snelling has suffered multiple heart attacks, and the prognosis is now “grim”.
“My client is a man who is 72 and for many years ran a successful business and genuinely believed that the premises fell into Cheshire,” Mr Sherridan, mitigating, said.
“This has tarnished his reputation. He believed he was targeted by neighbours and this built up resentment of a man with good character,” he added.