Norfolk boxer fined for exercising in Chapelfield Gardens during lockdown

Michael Walsh.

Professional boxer Michael Walsh appeared at Norwich Magistrates Court accused of failing to comply with a direction to leave Chapelfield Gardens. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A Norfolk boxer who went to a park to exercise during the coronavirus lockdown has been convicted of ignoring a direction to leave by police.

Michael Walsh, 37, a professional featherweight boxer, went on trial at Norwich Magistrates Court having denied an offence of failing to comply with a reasonable instruction to disperse from the area.

Walsh was seen by police in Chapelfield Gardens on November 21 last year, when the country was in a national lockdown, and was speaking to other people in the area at the time.

An empty Chapelfield Gardens during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

An empty Chapelfield Gardens during one of the coronavirus lockdowns last year. - Credit: Archant

He was seen running in the gardens, at about 1pm, with a white hoody on, with the words “Exercising My Right to Freedom” on it, while talking loudly into a mobile phone about how he was “exercising my rights to freedom”.

Police were on patrol due to concerns over potential anti-coronavirus demonstrations following similar recent protests.

Giving evidence on Thursday (November 25) PC Shaun Collingsworth said: “He was jogging on the spot.

“He was saying something about rights and rights to exercise.”

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Walsh was later issued with a direction to leave after “information received” from other officers who had been watching the area.

But the officer said Walsh was still “jogging on the spot” after being given the instruction and “carried on jogging around”.

Giving evidence, Ian Fisher, defending, said he went to the park alone to exercise.

The fighter accepted he had a “bee in my bonnet” about some of the restrictions in place but insisted he had been there to exercise.

He said: “I went there to exercise my right to freedom for myself.

“I was just there to exercise, I had a fight coming up.”

Walsh said he had spoke to others who asked him about boxing and remained in the park for about another 20 minutes after being spoken to by police.

The boxer, who was wearing headphones at the time, said: “I genuinely didn’t understand or hear the order.”

“I didn’t really understand the instruction I had to go straight home."

Walsh, of Norwich Road, Corpusty, was found guilty by District Judge David Wilson of a "one man crusade" whose "key aim was to protest and his running was an excuse to undertake that".

Walsh was fined £200, ordered to pay £200 costs and a £34 victim surcharge.


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