Northern Ireland news

Businesses challenging 'disproportionate' shutdown of beauty industry

Jason Shankey owner of Shankey Salon, Male Grooming, Hairdressing, Beauty and Sunbeds. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire 
Rebecca Black, PA

A group representing close contact workers will set out a case in court against the "disproportionate" and "arbitrary" shutdown of their businesses.

The Stormont executive announced that services such as hairdressers and beauticians were among a range of businesses required to close until November 13.

Barber and tanning shop owner Jason Shankey, Naomi Holmans of Roamer Health and Holistic Clinic, and Michelle Young of DKY Hair Company said they are taking a legal case on behalf of the "whole close contact industry".

Solicitor Simon Chambers said they believe it will be the first such case to be heard in a UK court.

"We think that the decision to close the close contact sector was disproportionate and arbitrary," he told the PA news agency.

"We sent a pre-action protocol letter on Thursday to the Department of Health, we filed papers yesterday seeking leave for judicial review and it has been listed for Thursday morning.

"We have a good strong team and we feel pretty confident that this is a case that should be aired and the Department of Health should be giving answers as to why this industry was closed down when there is no compelling evidence to justify that decision.

"As far as I am aware, there have been various challenges but I can't see anywhere in the UK where anyone has actually taken this to court yet. I think we might be the first.

"Time is of essence here, everyone is losing money hand over fist, everybody is closed down. A lot of people in the industry are self-employed, they are young, on minimum wage - even if they qualify for 60% of their pay, that is only 60% of minimum wage, they have got rent to pay.

"In just over two weeks' time, the decision is being made whether to continue with lockdown. If nothing else this will bring to the attention of the Executive and Department of Health, this is an industry that shouldn't be so easily dismissed."

Earlier this week, PA revealed that four barbers have threatened the Executive with legal action over the coronavirus restrictions.

Sean Lawlor of Cambridge Barbershop, Andrew Kavanagh of Camlough Barbers, David Lutton of The Corner Barbershop, and Padraig McShane of Cut N Edge stated their intention to challenge the Executive on the decision-making process that led to the regulations coming into force.

A scientific paper that guided the Executive's decisions on the introduction of the circuit-break estimated the closure of hairdressers and beauticians could reduce the virus's reproduction number (R number) by 0.05.

Other steps that would have had a greater projected impact, such as the closure of churches (estimated reduction of 0.1), were not taken by the Executive.

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