Residents breaching lockdown rules are being punished
Police and the courts are taking action against people in Wigan who flout the rules imposed during the coronavirus lockdown.
A shoplifter has become the first person in the borough to be prosecuted for leaving home without a legitimate excuse.
And fines have been handed to people who travelled from Merseyside to visit a quarry in Appley Bridge.
Official statistics released yesterday said 28 patients had died at the borough’s hospital trust and there were 208 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Wigan.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should only leave their homes to buy food, for any medical need, for exercise or to go to work, if they cannot work from home.
But Shaun Cleworth, 34, could not explain why he was not at home after being arrested for stealing meat from a supermarket and threatening to stab a security guard.
He was seen putting beef and rump steak worth £60 into a carrier bag at Tesco Extra in Leigh at 5.30pm last Friday.
According to prosecutors, he walked past the tills and towards the doors, ignoring a security guard who asked him to stop.
The guard caught up with him and Cleworth swung a punch at him, before pulling a pair of pliers from his pocket and shouting: “Leave me alone or I will stab you”.
Staff managed to get the pliers from Cleworth and restrained him on the floor, as he shouted that he was going to stab them with a needle in his pocket. No needle was found when he was arrested.
In interview, Cleworth, of Warrington Road in Leigh, could not give police a legitimate reason for being out that day, prosecutors said.
He was charged with leaving home without a reasonable excuse, as well as stealing meat and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
Cleworth pleaded guilty to the three offences when he appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court.
He was fined £100 for leaving his home during the pandemic.
A 16-week prison sentence was imposed for using threatening words and four weeks for theft, both suspended for 12 months. Cleworth must pay £85 prosecution costs and £122 victim surcharge.
He was subject to a conditional discharge imposed in December, after two offences of stealing meat from the same supermarket, but magistrates decided not to impose a separate penalty.
Meanwhile, police are urging people to comply with the coronavirus lockdown, particularly during the sunny Easter weekend, after visitors flocked to a quarry.
Officers told several groups to leave East Quarry in Appley Bridge and imposed fines for breaching the rules.
A spokesman for Skemersdale Police said: “Abandoned quarries are not safe places to swim at the best of times but trespassing to swim or picnic, in the current climate, is socially irresponsible and puts many peoples lives at risk.
“Over the last two days officers from our neighbourhood and response teams have removed several groups from the quarry at Appley Bridge.
“The majority have been from Liverpool or Southport and in groups of people outside of their own household. This is clearly in breach of the Government’s Covid regulations.
“Lancashire Police will continue its policy of engaging, explaining and encouraging these rules prior to issuing any fines.
“Unfortunately some of these groups have failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation or comply with officers so a group from Merseyside were issued fines on Tuesday for attending the quarry and a further three people yesterday.
“We will have staff patrolling the quarry all weekend so stay away, stay safe, keep your families safe, protect the NHS and save lives.”
Despite multiple campaigns highlighting the risks, some people still choose to head to quarries and other open water in warm weather.
The area has had its share of tragedies over the years. In 1999, Craig Croston, 17, from Platt Bridge, drowned while swimming with friends in East Quarry.
In 2015 13-year-old Marsh Green schoolboy Miracle Godson died in the same quarry after getting into difficulty while swimming.