Great Reopening

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The emblem on the upper left is one version of the Freeman family coat of arms, an apparent nod to "freemen of the land".
I fought the law
and the law won

Icon pseudolaw.svg
us crazy
More pseudolegal notices at Holey Skin
Another pseudolegal notice at The Mustard Seed
Some think they can opt out of law in the same way that some people think they can opt out of science and vaccines.
—Ellie Cumbo, The Law Society[1]
It is the self-righteous person’s legal equivalent of shouting, “Don’t want to!”
—Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times[2]

The Great Reopening was a anti-lockdown pseudolegal scheme spread on social media in late 2020 in which small business owners and managers across the UK opened their premises to customers in contravention of COVID-19 lockdown regulation.[3] The group behind the scheme initially encouraged defiance based upon a misinterpretation of Clause 61 of the Magna Carta, and provided a pseudolegal notice to be displayed proclaiming the individual's "right to enter into lawful dissent" and declaring the business "under the jurisdiction of common law".[1] Although, upon consultation with an actual lawyer, this advice was later retracted, many went ahead with it regardless. These arguments in modern times are generally restricted to proponents of Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) schemes such as freeman on the land and sovereign citizens.[1] The campaign was supposed to culminate in a, well, great reopening on January 30th, 2021, but only 70 business actually signed up and those either never opened or were quickly shuttered by the authorities.[4]

Does Magna Carta mean nothing?[edit]

Social media posts claiming Clause 61 of the Magna Carta gave people the right to lawfully dissent or rebel against unjust governance, were quickly debunked by Full Fact's Claire Milne, who clarified:

The original version of Magna Carta granted powers to “assail” the monarch and “seek redress” to 25 barons in order to keep the provisions of the Magna Carta, but these powers were not granted to the population at large. Within a year of being written, this clause was removed from subsequent versions of Magna Carta. It was never incorporated into English statutory law.[5]

Commentator Robert Shrimsley suggests that motivated reasoning is at work, with individuals who do not like a particular law and think it shouldn't apply to them, but with no actual legal defence, settling on Magna Carta as an excuse.[2] Such cases, according to The Law Society's Ellie Cumbo, often arise from ignorance of the legal system, compounded by poor advice found online.[1] Journalist Hussein Kesvani confirms social media, especially Facebook, are to blame with viral videos of business owners citing Magna Carta to police officers hashtaged #knowyourrights and #donotconsent.[6]

Citing Magna Carta plays to some individual's puffed-up sense of being the true defenders of the nation, notes Shrimsley.[2] On far-right social media, Kesvani adds, Magna Carta is invoked as a rallying cry against the government and the elites.[6] Cumbo agrees that the embrace of such "alternative" legal concepts parallels the rejection of "elitist" scientific expertise which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] The promise of freedom, security and fixity during pandemic chaos could bring such discontents into dangerous politics, warns Kesvani.[6]

It's important to distinguish between those engaged in willful defiance of supposedly "unjust" laws passed by perceived "elites", and those who due to a lack of basic legal knowledge, exacerbated by bad online advice, get swept along by the wrong idea about how law works, Cumbo concludes.[1] Equally important, Kesvani notes, is not to dismiss these seemingly ridiculous people, as they are desperate and prone to exploitation by dubious groups.[6] In the US, protestors carry guns and display "Live Free or Die" bumper stickers, concludes Shrimsley, so merely sticking up pictures of the Magna Carta and moaning about face masks is a small mercy to be grateful for.[2]

Open and shut cases[edit]

The press reported on the owners and managers of a number of small business who quickly found themselves in legal trouble for following this scheme.

Quinn Blakey[edit]

Under common law, operating my business is not breaking the law.
—Sinead Quinn, Owner of Quinn Blakey[7]

Quinn Blakey is a hairdressing salon in Oakenshaw, West Yorkshire, which under the ownership of Sinead Quinn defied COVID-19 lockdown regulations, wasting over fifty hours of Kirklees Council time,[8] and racking up £17,000 in fines which Quinn did not "consent" to, before the council issued a closure notice.[9][10][11][12] Accusing the authorities of "absolute harassment" and "stalking",[13] she released a video of one encounter in which she tells them:

You're speaking to my fictitious character. I am a living woman and I don't consent to any fines. I'm not entering into any contract with you or the police.[7]

Magistrates finally ordered the salon to close "to prevent nuisance to members of the public and to safeguard public health" for the 36 hours until nationwide lockdown restrictions were to be lifted anyway,[14][15] and the council had to take further legal action when the fines went unpaid.[16] The long-awaited court case took place at Kirklees Magistrates' Court in August 2021 without Quinn in attendance, as her unopened summons was returned along with a letter reading:

Notice please find enclosed package returned unseen. The package is not correctly addressed and is not accepted.

It is required that the verified contract signed by us with a verified claim with the name of a man/woman as plaintiff is shown within 7 days of this notice.

We have no legal obligation in this matter until this is shown.

Who is the man/woman who has a claim in this matter? Julie Muscroft? Miss S Qamar?

If a fictional plaintiff continues to act without our consent he/she is liable for all costs in this matter and the same for the harm and loss caused to the woman Sinead.

The woman Sinead does not accept the role of defendant.

No contract.


Witness - Paul

Witness - Sheila

Sinead (fingerprint) - autograph[17]

Quinn was convicted on six counts of breaching Covid-19 regulations and four charges of obstructing an officer from carrying out their duty. She was fined £6,000 and order to pays costs of £2,200, with the £17,000 in fixed penalty notices dropped.[18][19] As of last reporting on May 24th, 2022, the fines remain unpaid.[20]

Holey Skin[edit]

We will not be locking up our studio, not at all. I encourage every business to do the same… so anyway, where’s all the parties at? Who’s game for a party Thursday?
—Aron Walton, manager of Holey Skin[21]

Holey Skin was a tattoo parlor on Gloucester Road, Bristol, which under the management of Aron Walton defied COVID-19 lockdown regulations as part of the scheme, with Walton accusing the police and council officers who arrived to serve a prohibition notice of trespass and stating:

We haven't signed any contract with you.

I'm not a fictional character. I am a living man. You are not in your jurisdiction.

I’m not accepting that notice. I do not consent. I do not acknowledge it. I do not wish to enter any contract with you.[22]

He later confirmed to police, "I haven't accepted any prohibition order. I am a living man and I do not consent," "This land is governed by consent and we do not consent," and, "This is not a criminal matter... I know they're getting you to do stuff, but your hands are tied."[23]

When officers returned with a warrant of entry and a locksmith, Walton told the officers:

You have no wet signature from a judge. You have no authority here. You have no jurisdiction here.

I stand under common law. You are committing criminal offences against me right now.[24]

Issued a £1,000 fixed penalty notice, he responded, "I do not consent, I do not accept it," but, "Leave that evidence there for me, please."[25]

Holey Skin was reopen within a week, with Walton posting the Magna Carta notice in the window,[26] and when police and council officer arrived with a warrant and issued £200 fixed penalty notices to four people, he responded "I do not understand, I do not consent," maintained, "That warrant there has no wet signature from a judge," and accused them of "high treason," for which, he stated, "you will stand trial before a jury of the people, and which still carries the gallows".[27]

Bristol Magistrates' Court, in August 2021, sentenced Walton, in his absence, to pay over £20,000 in fines and costs for failing to comply with the closure notice and obstructing an enforcement officer.[28][29]

Ripped Gym[edit]

Ripped Gym is a fitness facility in Harlow, Essex,[30] which under the ownership of Michelle Meade-Wyatt (April 1975–)[31] and Damien Wyatt (September 1983–),[32] defied COVID-19 lockdown regulations as part of the scheme. Police, tipped off by the gym's social media posts, arrived on the first day of the UK's second lockdown, issued 10 fixed penalty notices to customers, and arrested Meade-Wyatt when she refused to cooperate, meanwhile Harlow Council issued a prohibition notice requiring the premises to close.[33][34][35][36] Police bodycam footage of the incident, released following the trial, showed her handing officers a notice claiming the gym was operating under common law, refusing to identify herself as the owner, and stating she would not consent to the fine or answer any questions.[37][38]

Meade-Wyatt appeared from custody at Southend magistrates court the following day, where she was remanded on unconditional bail with her hearing scheduled for 7 December 2020, on charges of failing to comply with coronavirus legislation[39][40][41] and the destruction of magazines to the value of £6 belonging to Essex Police.[42] A socially distanced "protest workout," attended by former soap star Danny Walters,Wikipedia took place outside the gym the following day,[43] while the gym shared a controversial post seemingly comparing their plight to that of Anne Frank.Wikipedia[44] Later that month Wyatt and Meade-Wyatt were arrested at an anti-lockdown protest in Liverpool.[45] At her 7 December hearing Meade-Wyatt plead not guilty,[46] her trial was set for 28 July 2021,[47] but this was rescheduled for November 23rd, 2021 when she made an "honest mistake" and confused the date.[48] Colchester Magistrates' Court finally fined her £1,000.[49][50]


I am not entering into a contract with you, I refuse to stand under you.
—Bradley Orr, Owner of Cirque-d-Play[51]

Cirque-d-Play is a soft play centre in Everton,[52] whose "childish" and "selfish"[51] owner, former professional footballer Bradley OrrWikipedia (November 1982–),[53] thought that Covid-19 was "make-believe," and that he could, under "common law",[51] ignore any law he considered "unjust".[54] An opinion supported by fellow former footballer Joey BartonWikipedia as a fight for existence.[55] PC Alex Broadbent explained that when he visited:

Orr pointed out that he had an extract from the Magna Carta on the front door of his property which he asked me to read.[51]

Acting "in a childish manner" he claimed there was "no scientist [sic] proof around it on the government website," and that "Health Regulations 2020 were only legislations and not law and that he only listened to common law." PC Matthew Edwards explained:

Despite my pleads [sic] for him to see sense and close the business, encouraging him to do so and help the NHS fight this pandemic, he was selfishly dismissive over it and acting in a childlike manner would not listen and continued to argue.[51]

Orr, who did not respond to court summons, was convicted of two counts of contravening a prohibition notice and fined over £4,500.

The Mustard Seed[edit]

What's going to happen when the truth comes out that the country and people's lives are devastated and I kept quiet. I went along with it because I was alright and my beliefs won't let me do that ever.
—Christine Sala, Owner of The Mustard Seed[56]

The Mustard Seed is a Christian bookshop and tearoom in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, whose owner, Christine Sala, did not believe the government's figures on COVID-19 infections and deaths, but did believe the Magna Carta gave her the right to remain open. Sala maintained that the pandemic was "politicised," "full of lies," and part of the "new world order."[57] Believing that she was, "standing up for common law,"[58] she stated:

I'm not doing this because I'm a rebel. I don't believe what I am doing is unlawful. I'm standing up for what is right and moral.[59]

What this meant, is that she hosted a gathering of 40 to 50 people which resulted in a £17,000 fine, two arrests and a closure notice.[60][61] Later breaches regarding serving customers inside resulted in a three-month closure notice and ten £200 fines.[62][63] Even further breaches incurred an £11,000 fine.[64] Failing on appeal Scala was finally ordered to pay around £21,000.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Covid lockdown: Why Magna Carta won’t exempt you from the rules by Alistair Coleman (6 March 2021) BBC News
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Magna Carta offers no way to get out of lockdown by Robert Shrimsley (5 November 2020) FT Magazine
  3. Anti-lockdown campaigners backed by Piers Corbyn and David Icke push for illegal 'Great Reopening' of shops and businesses from TOMORROW despite Covid rules - as police threaten 'ultimate action' against flouters (29 January 2021) MailOnline
  4. Among the Covid sceptics: ‘We are being manipulated, without a shadow of a doubt’ by Samira Shackle (8 April 2021) The Guardian
  5. “Article 61” of Magna Carta doesn’t allow you to ignore Covid-19 regulations by Claire Milne (3 November 2020) Full Fact
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 There’s a darker side to English businesses citing Magna Carta to defy lockdown by Hussein Kesvani (3 November 2020) The Guardian Opinions
  7. 7.0 7.1 Salon owner facing bigger punishment after opening AGAIN despite £1k fine by Andrew Robinson (11 November 2020) Yorkshire Live
  8. Bradford hairdresser Sinead Quinn's staggering cost to taxpayer throughout Covid-19 pandemic by Kristian Johnson (14 May 2021) Yorkshire Live
  9. 'Selfish' salon owner hit with another 10k fine - taking total to 27k - after ignoring lockdown rules again by Andrew Robinson (24 November 2020) Yorkshire Live
  10. Covid-19: Bradford salon fined £17,000 for lockdown opening (24 November 2020) BBC News
  11. Defiant Bradford hairdresser shut down and handed court date after Kirklees Council lose patience by Nick Lavigueur (25 November 2020) Yorkshire Live
  12. Covid-19: Bradford hair salon taken to court over lockdown opening (29 November 2020) BBC News
  13. Bradford salon boss fury at 'police sitting outside waiting for her to break lockdown' by Andrew Robinson (25 November 2020) Yorkshire Live
  14. Defiant Bradford hair salon boss who refused to shut in lockdown ordered to close - for just 36 hours by Andrew Robinson (30 November 2020) Yorkshire Live
  15. Covid-19: Bradford hair salon ordered to close over lockdown trading (30 November 2020) BBC News
  16. Quinn Blakey hairdresser has run out of time to pay £17k fines - and is now facing an even bigger one by Andrew Robinson (7 January 2021) Yorkshire Live
  17. The strange letter Sinead Quinn sent to court as she refuses to turn up for hearing over Covid breaches by Andrew Robinson and Ben Abbiss (13 August 2021) Yorkshire Live
  18. Sinead Quinn let off £17,000 fines but ordered to pay £8,436 for breaking lockdown rules at Quinn Blakey salon by Andrew Robinson and Ben Abbiss (13 August 2021) Yorkshire Live
  19. Covid-19: Bradford hairdresser found guilty of lockdown breaches (13 August 2021) BBC News
  20. Defiant hairdresser Sinead Quinn still hasn't paid £8,436 lockdown fines handed out nine months ago by Andrew Robinson (24 May 2022) Yorkshire Live
  21. Bristol tattooist says he will open shop in lockdown and wants a 'party' by Conor Gogarty (2 November 2020) Bristol Live
  22. Covid-deniers gather as Bristol shop stays open after police visit by Conor Gogarty (9 November 2020) Bristol Live
  23. Covid-deniers gather as Bristol shop stays open after police visit by Conor Gogarty (9 November 2020) Bristol Live
  24. Locksmith forces entry to Aron Walton tattoo studio Holey Skin as police guard the scene by Conor Gogarty (13 November 2020) Bristol Live
  25. Man arrested and de-arrested as Holey Skin tattooist Aron Walton fined by Emma Grimshaw (13 November 2020) Bristol Live
  26. Bristol tattoo shop reopens saying Magna Carta means it can ignore lockdown by Conor Gogarty (25 November 2020) Bristol Live
  27. Bristol tattoo shop raided again as Aron Walton confronts officers over Magna Carta by Conor Gogarty (26 November 2020) Bristol Live
  28. Aaron Walton: Covid-denier who threatened to fine police must pay £20k by Conor Gogarty (10 August 2021) Bristol Live
  29. Aaron Walton could be prosecuted again if he does not pay Covid fine by Conor Gogarty (14 August 2021) Bristol Live
  30. RIPPED GYM LIMITED Companies House
  31. Michelle MEADE Companies House
  32. Damien Myles WYATT Companies House
  33. Harlow’s Ripped Gym owner pledges to defy lockdown (5 November 2020) Your Harlow
  34. Update: Essex Police arrest Ripped Gym owner over Covid-19 breach (5 November 2020) Your Harlow
  35. Ripped Gym owner in Harlow arrested and 10 customers fined after police find gym in use in breach of Covid-19 law by Paul Winspear (5 November 2020) Bishop's Stortford Independent
  36. The Ripped Gym in Harlow owner arrested after staying open in lockdown (5 November 2020) BBC News
  37. Essex Police release bodycam footage of Ripped Gym owners arrest in Harlow (30 November 2021) Your Harlow
  38. Essex: Michelle Meade-Wyatt fined for keeping gym open in lockdown by Alex Gidden (30 November 2021) Essex Echo
  39. Woman charged with breaching coronavirus rules after gym found open by Ellis Whitehouse (6 November 2020) Essex Echo
  40. Ripped Gym owner charged under Covid-19 breach (6 November 2020) Your Harlow
  41. The Ripped Gym owner Michelle Meade-Wyatt to appear in court charged with opening business in lockdown by Paul Winspear (6 November 2020) Bishop's Stortford Independent
  42. Owner of Ripped Gym makes first appearance in court over Covid breach allegation (14 November 2020) Your Harlow
  43. Supporters of Ripped Gym take part in “Protest Workout” (8 November 2020) Your Harlow
  44. Gym owner's Anne Frank comparison sparks fury online by Marni Dixit (9 November 2020) Yahoo News
  45. Owners of Ripped Gym in Harlow arrested at anti-lockdown protests in Liverpool (16 November 2020) Your Harlow
  46. Covid-19: Harlow gym owner faces trial for breaking lockdown rules (8 December 2020) BBC News
  47. Trial date set for owner of Ripped Gym over Covid breach (23 February 2021) Your Harlow
  48. New trial date set for Harlow gym owner accused of breaching Covid rules (3 August 2021) Your Harlow
  49. Covid-19: Harlow gym owner fined for breaking lockdown rules (23 November 2021) BBC News
  50. Ripped Gym owner given £1,000 fine for breaching Covid rules (24 November 2021) Your Harlow
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 51.4 Ex pro footballer said covid was 'make believe' and kept soft play centre open by Christopher McKeon (1 June 2021) Liverpool Echo
  52. CIRQ-D-PLAY LIMITED Companies House
  53. Bradley James ORR Companies House
  54. Covid: Ex-footballer Bradley Orr fined for Magna Carta Covid breach (1 June 2021) BBC News
  55. Joey Barton appears to back conspiracy theorist citing the Magna Carta to avoid coronavirus regulations (2 November 2020) The Independent
  56. Christian cafe claimed Magna Carta and refused to close during lockdown (17 November 2020) ITV
  57. Bookshop and tearoom using Magna Carta as reason behind staying open during lockdown by Andrew Topping (13 November 2021) Nottinghamshire Live
  58. Tearoom quoting Magna Carta to stay open during lockdown fined £1,000 and told to close by Andrew Topping (13 November 2021) Nottinghamshire Live
  59. Two arrests at Christian tearoom that refuses to close (15 November 2020) BBC News
  60. Man charged after police called to Christian tearoom gathering (16 November 2020) BBC News
  61. Coronavirus: Lockdown-defying tearoom told to close (20 November 2020) BBC News
  62. Fines for lockdown breaching cafe as customers found inside 'without masks' by Anna Whittaker and Peter Hennessy (10 May 2021) Nottinghamshire Live
  63. Covid: Further fines at lockdown-defying Christian tea room (11 May 2021) BBC News
  64. Residents' anger as Christian cafe in Gedling receives £11,000 fine following Covid breach by Olimpia Zagnat (7 July 2021) Nottinghamshire Live
  65. Covid: Mustard Seed cafe owner faces £21,000 bill (7 October 2022) BBC News