Abraham Mahmood, 34, sparked a stand-off with police last November when a DJ event at Kyice’s Kitchen in Brick Lane was advertised on Instagram as “business as usual”.
The restaurateur posted a copy of Magna Carta in the window, insisting that the Covid-19 regulations were “not legal” and he was entitled to continue serving diners. When a team of officers arrived in Brick Lane to investigate they were met by a “loud and uncooperative” Mahmood, and a hostile crowd gathered to protest against the police action.
Describing the stand-off on November 12 last year, Pc Melody Marshall said the restaurateur was told the DJ would be “breaking the Covid regulations”.
“Mahmood was insistent that he believed the Covid-19 regulations were not legal and that under common law and the Magna Carta he did not have to comply with them,” she told Westminster magistrates’ court.
Pc Yusuf Akdeniz said Mahmood was “attempting to make a scene out of it”, eventually whipping up a large crowd of around 100 people who became “hostile and were howling abuse at officers”.
Mahmood, who claimed Article 61 of Magna Carta — the charter of rights signed by King John in 1215 — entitled him to stay open, was handcuffed and arrested. He was convicted in his absence last month of carrying out a restricted business or service, and was ordered to pay a £2,000 fine as well as £290 in court costs and fees.
A rumour that Article 61 — the so-called right to lawful rebellion — could be used to defy lockdown circulated on social media. But legal expert David Allen Green wrote on his blog that Article 61 was removed in 1216, while the charter should be seen as “a legal ornament rather than a living instrument”.
He wrote: “There is no sensible explanation for why a provision that was only in force 1215 to 1216…would have the effect in 2020 of preventing a shop being closed under public health regulations if Magna Carta was placed in a shop window.”
Mahmood’s case was among a series of Covid-19 prosecutions carried out quietly by Westminster magistrates court. The Evening Standard has discovered that dozens of cases were prosecuted behind closed doors under the Single Justice Procedure in March and May, with the court failing to publish details of the prosecutions to either the public or the media.
Ludgero Monsonto Da Costa, 37, was left with a court bill of more than £2000 after a 7am raid on a DJ party at a Limehouse flat last November. Police found up to 40 people “dancing, drinking and just partying” at the makeshift nightclub.
Ciao Mazzaro, 29, and Mayra Lopes-Zuque, 21, both from Tottenham, were handed £1,100 fines each for throwing a party at a rented AirBnB apartment in the City. Police said they found seven people hiding in a walk-in wardrobe when they raided the property on November 15 last year.
Andrew Pankiw, 25, from Stoke, was fined £1,100 after he was arrested at an anti-lockdown protest outside Downing Street last September, court papers show.
The self-confessed “rebel” challenged the lawfulness of the Covid-19 regulations, and when arrested he “spoke about conspiracies involving ‘Prince Andrew’ and the ‘Sex Trade’”, police said. He too was found guilty in his absence after not answering the notice of intended prosecution.
And Luca Delnevo, 33, was fined £1760 for operating his parents’ pub, The Rising Sun in Mill Hill, in breach of lockdown on November 20 when he was caught serving pizza to customers.