Five welders released from jail after breaking covid rules on Isle of Man STILL stranded as one catches virus in prison

Five welders released from jail after breaking covid rules on Isle of Man STILL stranded as one catches virus in prison

FIVE welders who were jailed for breaking coronavirus rules on the Isle of Man have been released from prison – but must now isolate there for two weeks after one of them caught Covid in jail.

The five men – all welders from Doncaster, South Yorkshire – were arrested last month after buying lunch in Tesco as they arrived to work on Manx Electric Railway on the island.

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Christopher Lafayette, 62, Jack Smith, 18, Michael Smith, 43, Robbie Rhodes, 18, and Luke Fletcher, 22, have all now served their time but must isolate for two weeks in a hotel before they can go home, after one of them tested positive for Covid-19.

They are now stranded on the island and away from their families for another two weeks until they are allowed out of their quarantine.

The men were arrested for breaching island rules which state key workers from the mainland must stay in their accommodation unless at work.

A resident had tipped the authorities off after seeing them in Tesco, believing the men could not be local because they all wore masks – and this is not compulsory in island shops.

The men were handed their sentence of 14 days in prison on October 1 and were expected to serve half of this.

Visiting at the jail they were kept in has also been suspended after the positive test result came back on Saturday.

Devastated wife and mum Helen Smith, 38, had previously blasted the decision to jail her husband Michael, 43, and son Jack, 18.

She told the Mirror: "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 yet politicians break rules and get away with it."

Helen said her husband called her last Tuesday to say they had arrived on the island safely, but then she didn't hear from him again until Friday, when he was behind bars.

Lisa Fletcher's son Luke, 22, was also arrested as part of the group.

She said the workers would not have deliberately broken the law.

Isle of Man coronavirus laws for travellers

Access to the Isle of Man is tightly restricted for non-residents.

There are a small number of categories that allow for entry to the island, but only with an Exemption Certificate. This is a limited group of people who are necessary to the Island’s critical national infrastructure or for the preservation of human life.

As a non-resident, it is not possible to enter the Isle of Man without a certificate.

Failure to comply with this rule is a criminal offence on the Isle of Man.

Travellers also have to undergo 14 days of mandatory self-isolation and you must not leave your accommodation during this period.

There is no legal requirement for people to wear face masks on the island.

Source: Isle of Man government

"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," she said.

The Isle of Man has recorded a total of 345 coronavirus cases and 24 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

All five welders pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Covid-19 restrictions under the Isle of Man's Emergency Powers Act.

The prosecution said a supervisor who had travelled with the man had told them not to enter the Tesco.

The group's defence lawyer said they had left their exemption certificates on the dashboards of their cars and had not read them properly.

Magistrate chairman Belinda Pilling said the men had "closed their eyes" to the law and sentenced them to 14 days in prison.

Luke Fletcher's mum Lisa said her son had always followed Covid-19 rules.

She said: "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.”

Home Affairs Minister on the island, Graham Cregeen, said the move to stop prison visiting was a "precaution" and the prison had "robust and rigorous protocols in place".

Mr Gregeen said the prison was "fully prepared" for cases of Covid-19 and the suspension of visiting was to "reduce the already minimal risk that the virus could spread".

"Prison officers assigned to newly-arrived inmates in self-isolation are required to wear full PPE, maintain a safe distance, and practice scrupulous hand-washing," he added.

The men's firm Haigh Rail Ltd refused to comment on the incident.

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