Chichester woman who shopped without a mask takes legal action over 'wrongful arrest' and 'false imprisonment'

A Chichester woman has claimed that she was wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned after refusing to wear a mask whilst shopping.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 5:18 pm

Juliet Johnson was taken into custody by Sussex Police officers following an incident at Waitrose, in Chichester, on February 25.

She alleges that she was arrested whilst 'quietly and peacefully pushing a trolley and selecting items to purchase'.

Ms Johnson said: "Waitrose called the police following a discussion about not wearing a mask, even after having previously proved my exemption.

Juliet Johnson (pictured) was taken into custody by Sussex Police officers following an incident at Waitrose, in Chichester, on February 25

"All my possessions were taken on arrest. I was questioned in police custody including about my mental health.

"I was incarcerated in a cell. I was forced to strip naked and told if I didn't strip myself, the female officers would do it.

"I was imprisoned for some time, then released without any charge."

In February, wearing a mask in shops and supermarkets was a compulsory UK Government requirement, unless you were medically exempt.

The World Health Organisation said masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives.

Ms Johnson has since taken legal action against the police force 'for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and disability discrimination'.

Via a CrowdJustice page, she has so far raised £2,576 from 69 pledges. The target is £50,000.

Ms Johnson added: "I am a peaceful woman who does no harm to others. We should not be treated unfairly by the police.

"The police should never get away with abuse of power when dealing with men, women, boys or girls."

Denying liability, Sussex Police said Ms Johnson was arrested for a 'public order offence' and was released without charge later the same day.

A spokesperson added: "A civil claim has been received in relation to this incident, including raising concerns about her treatment whilst in custody, however this is strongly disputed by Sussex Police and liability has been denied.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment further whilst the legal matter is ongoing."

Ms Johnson said she was exempt from wearing a mask due to her chronic health condition, 'invisible on the outside but at times debilitating'.

"I choose to use the exemption in law. I have to shop without wearing a mask," she said. "I believe that mandating the wearing of masks is against our human rights.

"The police said that Waitrose had called them because I was being abusive, this is simply not true.

"During the entire episode, both with Waitrose and Sussex Police, I was not abusive, or even rude, to anyone, and to the contrary, when given the opportunity, I was chatty with the officers.

"However I did point out and challenge anything I believed to be incorrect in my treatment and made clear my views on human rights."

Waitrose was approached for comment about the incident.

A spokesperson said: "This is an ongoing civil claim with Sussex Police to which we are not a party to, and therefore we are unable to comment on the matter."