A BARBER shop owner who kept cutting hair during Covid lockdowns has been fined almost £6,000.
Guy Awazi, who runs Guy’s Barber Shop on Drove Road, was visited several times by council and police officers in the first and second lockdowns, and warned to close or face further action.
But Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard he repeatedly failed to do it, arguing with police officers and refusing to give his details.
On one occasion he was arrested for obstructing police.
He was issued with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice, but he failed to pay. As a result the council took him to court. And on Monday he was convicted of breaching Coronavirus restrictions.
The bench fined him almost six times the amount of the original penalty notice and told him to pay within four weeks.
During both the first and second lockdowns in 2020, hairdressers and barbers were ordered by the Government to close.
But Guy’s kept cutting hair, often in back rooms and upstairs, or in a van, court documents revealed.
Swindon Borough Council’s trading standards department emailed the salon in May 2020 warning Awazi, of Standen Way, Blunsdon, they’d received a report that he had continued to operate in contravention of the rules. A warning letter was hand-delivered on June 11, 2020.
On June 26, council and police officers visited and issued a prohibition notice telling him he would be fined unless he stopped cutting hair.
The Government allowed hairdressers, among other businesses, to reopen on July 4.
But on November 5, the same day that the second lockdown came into force, police visited Guy’s and found a man having his hair cut.
Four hours later, they returned having been told the windows were blacked out, to find another man had just received a haircut.
Five days later, police went to the shop’s mobile van in Ramsthorn Close, Haydon Wick, where a male was sitting in a barber's chair, wearing a barber gown, who became very aggressive when challenged.
PCSO Jamie Moore reported that when the man ran his hands over his head cut hair fell from it. But he was told there was no proof a hair cut had taken place.
The other male in the van, who PCSO Moore believed was the business owner, wanted to know who reported him. He claimed the man was his cousin and he was helping him to move home.
“Throughout this incident, neither male showed any respect for authority and were more bothered about finding out who reported them than they were about listening to any advice I tried to pass, or about any offences they were committing,” said the PCSO.
Matters came to a head on November 11, when council enforcement officer Peter Jones, PC Joseph Tedder and SPC George Mason visited Guy’s to issue Awazi with a penalty notice.
The main floor of the shop was deserted, but upstairs a makeshift salon had been set up in a back room.
“I could see that a barber’s chair was set up with a mirror in front of it propped up against the wall and various hair cutting equipment and [stationery] positioned around the chair and plugged into the wall sockets,” Mr Jones described in his witness statement.
“The setup was clearly temporary and was in complete contrast to the professional setup in the main shop area on the ground floor.”
Mr Jones saw man sitting on a sofa wearing a Thames Water top who claimed that he was a friend of Awazi and had just come to pick something up.
“When I questioned as to what it was he had come to pick up, the male refused to tell me any further information stating that it was a private matter between him and Awazi.”
But Mr Jones was not convinced, and asked him whether he was there for a haircut – to which he outright refused.
Meanwhile, Awazi “refused to provide details and intensely contested the matter with us verbally”.
His brother, who identified himself as Junior later arrived and also started to become argumentative about the evidence, Mr Jones stated.
After an hour of trying to explain and Awazi refusing to give details, PC Tedder arrested the 36-year-old for obstructing an officer under the Coronavirus restrictions. He later decided to give his details and was de-arrested.
But he was not forthcoming with payment, despite multiple phone calls requesting extensions and payment plans after the deadline, and Swindon Borough Council took him to court.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge when he appeared in court last August, and was unrepresented at the trial on Monday.
Magistrates found him guilty, fining him £3,000.
They also ordered him to pay costs of £2,750, and a victim surcharge of £190, totalling £5,940. He will have until March 14 to make contact with the fines office, or he could be brought back to court.