In a bizarre twist to the ongoing confusion about coronavirus rules, five welders have been jailed despite wearing masks on a trip to the Isle of Man.
The men, aged from 18 to 62 and all from Doncaster, were on the island for a two-day job working on the railway.
They had all worn face masks while grabbing a few sandwiches for their lunch after getting off the morning ferry to the island’s capital, Douglas.
But the island, off the north-west coast of the British mainland, operates under different rules to the rest of the UK.
There, face masks are not compulsory but any workers coming over from elsewhere in the UK are obliged to stay in their accommodation when not actually at work.
A local spotted the men buying their lunch and – noticing they all had masks on – guessed they had to be from England and informed the police.
No sooner had they arrived at their hotel when they were arrested and led away in handcuffs, reports DailyMirror.
Father and son Michael and Jack Smith, along with workmates Luke Fletcher, Robbie Rhodes and Christopher Leroy Lafayette appeared before magistrates by video link on Thursday.
Boris Johnson's dad caught flouting coronavirus mask rules for second time in a week
All five – who were told they had to wear masks in court – pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Covid-19 restrictions under the island’s Emergency Powers Act.
While a prosecutor told the court that a supervisor who had travelled over with the men had advised them not to enter the shop, the men’s defence advocates told the court their exemption certificates had been left on the dashboard of their vehicles and they hadn’t read them properly.
Sentencing them to 14 days jail, magistrate chairman Belinda Pilling said the men had “closed their eyes” to the rules.
On Tuesday, the same day the welders were arrested, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to apologise for getting his own lockdown rules from the North East of England wrong in an interview, and his own dad Stanley was spotted breaking the rules by not wearing a mask in a shop.
Michael Smith’s wife Helen fumed: “They’ve been treated like serious criminals when the sensible thing was to have a word in their ear.
“It makes me so angry to think they’re in jail and yet politicians break rules and get away with it.”
Helen, 38, told the added that her husband called on Tuesday to say he had arrived safely – but then she didn’t hear from him again until Friday when he was in prison.
“He said they were shocked when the police turned up mob-handed at the hotel,” she said.
“They put them all in handcuffs and took them to the station. Jack was really upset.
“They only wanted to get some sandwiches for their lunch the next day. What were they meant to do otherwise? Starve?”
Lisa Fletcher, 50, mum of welder 22-year old welder Luke, insisted that her son would never have deliberately broken the law.
She said: “The rules are different from one place to the next. Even the politicians don’t know them. But you’d never expect in a million years that going to Tesco to buy food would land you in jail.”
“Before he went he downloaded the test and trace app on his phone. We were saying to him ‘make sure you wear your face mask’.
“He’s done exactly what we said. We thought what we were telling him was right but it turns out it’s wrong.”
Her husband Kevin, 53, added: “The rules are just all over the place. It’s absolutely ludicrous that they are in prison.”
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