A father-of-five has insisted he is exempt from wearing a face mask in public amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – and says he is innocent after police pepper sprayed him and arrested him for refusing to wear a mask on a train.
Anthony Baldwin, 34, was approached by a British Transport Police officer while on a train at Lime Street Station in Liverpool on Wednesday.
Footage of the arrest has gone viral – with many shocked to see the man pepper sprayed and arrested when the encounter between the roofer and the officer became fraught.
Video showed Mr Baldwin insist he was “exempt” from needing to wear a mask on public transport – and he was seen clashing with the officer when he ordered him to wear a face covering.
Mr Baldwin claims he does not need to wear a face covering as he suffers from anxiety and panic attacks.
Speaking to The Sun, he claimed: "I don’t have to wear a mask [on the train]. I’m exempt.
“I’ve got severe anxiety. In the video the police pull my top over my head and you can actually hear me screaming."
Mr Baldwin says he began suffering from severe anxiety following the death of his father five years ago.
He also told The Sun he suffered a panic attack when he was in the back of a police van and says he treats his anxiety with medication.
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He went on to claim he spent three hours in hospital following Wednesday’s incident, and said he sustained an “injury to the head” during the tense arrest.
He also claimed he refused to get off the train on Wednesday as he was on his way to an appointment at the time British Transport Police approached him.
Official government guidance does spotlight anxiety as one of the conditions that would make someone exempt from wearing a face covering on public transport.
The government website states: “The public are asked to be mindful of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering.
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“The list of exemptions, which has been in place since face coverings became mandatory on public transport, includes hidden conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders, autism, breathing difficulties, dementia, reduced vision or if you are with someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.”
Face coverings became mandatory on public transport in the UK in June – with fines of £100 for those who refused to follow the rules, unless exempt.
It is believed Mr Baldwin was arrested for threatening behaviour and assault of an officer following Wednesday’s incident.
In a statement, a British Transport Poilce spokesperson said: "A man has been charged with threatening behaviour and assaulting a police officer on a Merseyrail train to Liverpool Lime Street station.
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"The incident happened at around 3.20pm on Wednesday 2 September.
"Officers had responded to a report of a man coughing at two passengers."
The Mirror reports that Baldwin, of Little Sutton, will appear at Liverpool and Knowsley Magistrates' Court on January 6 accused of threatening behaviour and assault.
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