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Guernsey retailer jailed for Sunday trading

Machine dispenser escapes scot free

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A Guernsey retailer has gone to prison as part of his stand to change the Channel Islands Sunday Trading laws.

Tony Brown has already served nine days of a 50-day sentence for Sunday trading. He opted for chokey instead of a £500 fine and is currently out on appeal. He has said he'll serve the rest of his sentence if his appeal fails as a protest.

"I decided my rights were being interfered with by stupid politicians," he said. "So I said I'll take the 50 days."

Brown's business, Movie Zone, rents out video games and films. He started opening on Sunday because the competition, Channel Rentals, installed an automatic video dispenser which meant customers could hire a film or game on the Sabbath.

Guernsey's Sunday trading laws don't legislate against the machine - they were drafted well before the technology was even thought of - but stop regular businesses from selling anything other than perishable goods.

Brown has made several applications to trade on Sundays, pointing out that he faces unfair competition from the automatic video machine.

Brown believe's he is now in a position to show how ridiculous and antiquated the Guernsey laws are, after being granted permission to trade on a Sunday when tourists hit town.

Shops in the island's main town, St Peter Port, have been given special dispensation to trade on Sunday 16 September when a cruise liner docks there. The dispensation was granted by the St Peter Port council. Though Brown's store is in the St Sampson area of town, it's half way between St Sampson and St Peter Port, and so the St Sampson council said it was OK for him to open.

But it's very unlikely any of the cruise ship tourists will make it to his shop to hire a video or game in the eight hours they're on land. "They've [the council] made a fool of themselves," he said.

Brown has opened on 16 Sundays and been fined £600 after an earlier conviction. He doesn't plan to open again without getting a special dispensation, but his wife did open on the two Sundays while he was inside. She won't be charged.

He said he found prison demoralising but not too uncomfortable. Strangely he was put in the 'suicide watch' observation block.

Brown's appeal will be heard on 17 September. Guernsey lawmakers will be reviewing their trading laws at the end of October.

Brown would like to hear from other retailers who've experienced the introduction of Sunday trading and what the effect was on their business. He thinks the information could be useful to his appeal. You can email him at apbrown@nascr.net. ®

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