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A man who has claimed to have taken his facemask off "for 16 seconds" was slapped with a pricey £2,000 fine as a result.

Last February, Christopher O'Toole from Wallasey was visiting the B&M store in Prescot and had been wearing a facemask when he suddenly began to feel unwell and so momentarily removed his mask as he was departing the store.

It was at this moment, the 30-year-old claimed that police officers approached him and took his name down because he wasn't wearing a facemask since Covid lockdown restrictions were in place, and this meant that wearing a face covering was a legal requirement for shoppers.

O'Toole explained to the Liverpool Echo he has no issue with wearing a face mask and only removed it in this instance because he felt ill.

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"I was worrying when the police pulled me and I was just asking can I go?" he told the publication and added after the police took his name down that he thought "that was that and didn't think about it."

That was until O'Toole received an email from ACRO Criminal Records Office notifying him that he was required to cough up a £100 fine.

But O'Toole was having none of it and got in touch with ACRO: "I emailed them saying I wasn't going to pay a fine for taking my mask off for something like 16 seconds - not a chance.

Though he claimed his email was met with radio silence and he didn't receive any contact until early December when his fine was raised to an eye-watering amount.

"I didn't hear anything back from anyone for months until I got a letter at the start of December saying I owed £2,000," O'Toole said.

To make matters worse, the increased fine came just weeks before Christmas.

"It was four weeks before Christmas and they wanted the whole amount."

He added: "They could have taken my full wages and I still wouldn't have been able to have it cleared. I emailed them back and found out it had gone to court without me knowing."

"I had to sign a statutory declaration to show I hadn't known about it."

O'Toole is set to dispute the fine in court this month, with the hopes of getting it overturned.

"I am worried - but I want to get the chance to be able to fight my case," he concluded.

Meanwhile, when the Liverpool Echo reached out to ACRO Criminal Records Office for comment on this case, it told them it doesn't comment on individual cases but did say it has been helping police during the pandemic by administering fixed penalty notices.

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