Former Mr Universe and champion bodybuilder who opened gym during lockdown fined more than £50k
Eddy Ellwood declared the court conviction a sham and that people used the gym to improve their mental health during lockdown
A champion bodybuilder has been convicted of breaking lockdown laws by opening his gym and ordered to pay almost £56,000 in fines and costs by a court.
In extraordinary scenes, strongman Eddy Ellwood, 58, made a statement in the courtroom after he was fined, denying the authority of the court and declaring the conviction was a “sham”.
He had claimed people using his Xtreme Fitness premises in Hartlepool were engaged in a peaceful protest against the coronavirus restrictions last year.
His defence also told Teesside Magistrates’ Court last week that people could use the gym to improve their mental health during lockdown, in a move motivated by a number of suicides among people he knew.
The former Mr Universe denied four charges relating to breaches of Covid-19 legislation on two dates in February last year.
Two charges related to him contravening a direction from the local council by allowing people to enter the premises, and there were two charges that he flouted a prohibition notice by opening.
On Friday, District Judge Marie Mallon convicted him of all the offences following a two-day trial, saying it was a “preposterous submission” that people were protesting behind closed doors in a gym.
She said: “To whom were they protesting, how would they make their presence known?”
The judge noted that some gym-goers ran off and hid behind cars when a council official arrived.
Ellwood, whose address was given as that of his business, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £25,507 in costs as well as a £181 surcharge. He was given 12 months to pay.
Charles Holland, barrister for Hartlepool Council, said costs were in part so high because of an abuse of process argument from the defence which the district judge dismissed.
Dr John Brown, defending, said his client was a sole trader who had not been drawing a wage from the business lately.
Ellwood rose to his feet as the judge left the room and made a statement lasting several minutes, which was cheered by supporters in the public gallery.
He said he will appeal, that he felt no shame for trying to help people and called the court’s ruling a “sham”.
He said: “I have served humanity by caring, I haven’t done anything wrong.”