A gym which allegedly defied lockdown rules to stay open has been ordered to close for seven weeks.
Prophecy Performance Centre in Speke, Liverpool, was issued with a partial closure order at Sefton magistrates court on Monday.
Nathan de Asha, the gym’s owner and a professional bodybuilder, said that police had “harassed” him.
The order rules that he will be able to use the gym to train, along with a “spotter”, but access to the public is barred. De Asha was ordered by the court to pay costs of £2,500.
De Asha, 33, told the court that the gym had been operating as a “community hub” open only to those who are exempt from coronavirus restrictions, including elite athletes, those with disabilities, including mental health problems, and people classed as vulnerable, such as those with a BMI over 40.
Under the current rules, gyms in England are closed to the general public until at least 12 April.
Liverpool city council had applied for a full closure order, forcing the gym to close for three months after police raided the premises on 7 February. Three people were arrested including de Asha, who has said the police “mauled and abused” him.
CCTV footage of the arrest shown to the court appears to show a handcuffed De Asha pinned to the ground by police officers. At one point he seems to be surrounded by as many as 10 officers and a police dog. His lawyer, Lucinda Nicholls, said that his young children were in the car watching.
A spokesperson for the Merseyside police said that De Asha had refused to cooperate with attempts to engage with him and became aggressive. The police said they visited the gym on the afternoon of 7 February after receiving reports that it was open in breach of restrictions. Nine complaints were also made to the council. Police said they later received reports that up to 50 people were being held in the gym against their will.
Six hours later, around 7pm, they said that around 40 people attempted to leave the gym via previously locked fire doors, with some driving away at speed. Police originally said that 52 people were issued with fixed penalty notices for breaching Covid restrictions. However, when asked by Nicholls if the number was actually fewer than 10, PC Wayne Senior was unable to confirm the exact figure.
De Asha told the court that officers used CS spray and batons on about 23 gym-goers as they left.
Nicholls said De Asha is progressing with a formal legal action against the police, whose actions she described as wholly unacceptable. She argued in court that his large following on social media was the reason he was receiving so much police attention.
“It is obvious that an injustice occurred on the evening of 7 February when Mr De Asha suffered at the hands of the Merseyside police. Their excessive use of force, and their use of batons and CS spray, were caught on CCTV”, said Nicholls.
Deputy chief constable Serena Kennedy said officers were given extensive training around using force lawfully and proportionately.
“The decision to use force is never taken lightly, and in cases where it is appropriate, officers must often make quick, split-second judgments where there is a risk of harm. During this incident, the use of force was judged necessary by officers in response to people’s behaviour,” she said.
Sharon Connor from Liverpool city council said: “We will use the full force of the law against any business flouting these rules, which then put people’s health and safety in danger.
Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing, crime and fire, said last week that there was a national trend for gyms remaining open during lockdown. Three gyms in Bolton have been fined this month, while one gym in Preston was closed after being raided by police 11 times.