Businesswoman detained for two hours for not wearing face mask at Waitrose

·2-min read
Juliet Johnson told Waitrose staff she did not need to wear a face mask as she suffers from an autoimmune disease which affects her breathing - Will Dax/Solent News & Photo Agency
Juliet Johnson told Waitrose staff she did not need to wear a face mask as she suffers from an autoimmune disease which affects her breathing - Will Dax/Solent News & Photo Agency

An IT consultant was detained in a prison cell for two hours after she was arrested for failing to wear a face mask in Waitrose.

Juliet Johnson, 55, argued she was exempt from wearing a covering when challenged by a manager and security guard at the supermarket in Chichester, West Sussex, on February 25.

However, she was later confronted by two police officers and arrested over her refusal to put on a mask, which were required at the time under government rules.

Ms Johnson was then taken to Chichester police station, where she claims she was strip searched and held in custody for two hours.

The businesswoman was later released without charge, but is now suing Sussex Police for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and disability discrimination.

The 55-year-old said she had “proved” to Waitrose staff she did not need to wear a face mask as she suffers from an autoimmune disease which affects her breathing.

“The manager called police without my knowledge. I told the police officer of my human rights and that I had already proved I was exempt,” she said.

“I was perfectly civil and was just talking sensibly. I was accused of being abusive. I was not abusive. I was just having a conversation.

“I did not want to be arrested. But when they arrested me, I think I laughed because I was in shock. I have shopped there for years.”

A “protocol letter before action” has been sent to Sussex Police and Waitrose, and the police replied to say it needs more time before issuing a response.

A Waitrose spokesman said: “This is an ongoing civil claim with Sussex Police to which we are not a party and therefore we are unable to comment on the matter.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “A woman was arrested in Waitrose, Chichester, for a public order offence on February 25, 2021, and released without charge later the same day.

“A civil claim has been received in relation to this incident, including raising concerns about her treatment whilst in custody. However, this is strongly disputed by Sussex Police and liability has been denied.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment further whilst the legal matter is ongoing.”

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