An anti-lockdown protester and comrade of Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-vaxxer brother Piers has been arrested for filming inside a hospital and sharing footage on social media she claims shows the coronavirus pandemic is a ‘massive scam’.
Debbie Hicks wandered around Gloucester Royal Hospital on Monday saying it was ‘shut down’ and ‘dead’ and was arrested in her dressing gown by two officers who visited her home in Stroud 24 hours later.
In the eight-minute film, viewed by 158,000 people on Facebook, she says: ‘It’s a disgrace. I’ve seen less than 20 people. It’s completely dead in an empty hospital with wards shut down and the lights off. Where are all the people dying and where is the mutant virus? I can’t see the evidence and neither can the public watching. We’ve been robbed of Christmas for this’.
Gloucester Royal Hospital has hit back and insisted the wards are ‘extremely busy’ and accused her of ‘intrusion’ and upsetting patients filmed waiting in A&E.
While local Tory MP Siobham Baillie said: ‘It’s appalling that our Gloucestershire Hospital Trust had to spend their precious time during this difficult pandemic defending themselves against films on social media that were wrongly claiming the hospital is empty.’
Debbie Hicks filmed inside Gloucester Royal Hospital on Monday (left) saying it was ‘shut down’ and ‘dead’ and was arrested by two officers who visited her home in Stroud 24 hours later in an incident filmed by her husband (right(
Ms Hicks is a former Labour council candidate and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers (pictured together this year), who is an anti-lockdown campaigner
In the video shared widely on social media the activist says: ‘Where are all the people dying and where is the mutant virus?’
Gloucestershire recorded 1,286 positive cases last week – below the national average – with NHS chiefs claiming there are more than 200 Covid patients in the hospital Ms Hicks was filming.
The public is not allowed to film inside a UK hospital – or patients – without prior permission being granted.
Ms Hicks journeyed through A&E, along corridors and looked into various wards without a mask, telling people who stopped her that she is exempt from wearing them.
Ms Hicks wore a party hat instead of a mask on the Tube in June
In one angry exchange she is heard exclaiming: ‘You shouldn’t be asking me about that. It’s none of your business. Two stupid women asking why I’m not wearing a face covering. I’m not in the mood for this bulls**t today’.
The activist was arrested at her home on Tuesday on suspicion of a public order offence where her husband filmed two officers try to handcuff her in her dressing gown.
Sharing the video after being bailed yesterday – and being banned from all NHS property unless she becomes ill – she said: ‘Wake up world- how utterly Orwellian and Nazi to go through this for sharing a video of an empty hospital.
‘This officer barged into my home, at xmas, and arrested me when I wasn’t dressed in front of my family. I was in my nightgown with nothing underneath when the thug of an officer tried to drag me off under arrest as he aggressively arrested me and twisted my hands behind my back in handcuffs’.
Ms Hicks stood for Labour at the 2017 local elections before being suspended after suggesting that the Manchester terror attack was ‘wonderful timing for Theresa May’ – suggesting the terror attack that claimed 23 lives and injured 800-plus could help win the Tories votes.
She is an active supporter of Piers Corbyn and his ‘Freedom Rally’ movement, attending protests in London with him and posing for a selfie on the Tube using a party hat as a mask.
Gloucester Royal Hospital (pictured in Ms Hicks’ film) insisted the wards are ‘extremely busy’ and accused her of ‘intrusion’ and upsetting patients filmed waiting in A&E
In November she was arrested was arrested at the Freedom Rally event in Stroud. She has been charged with a coronavirus offence and is due to appear at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on February 22.
Gloucestershire Police has said she was arrested under Section 4A of the Public Order Act – meaning she is accused of causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress to people while filming the hospital.
A spokesman said: ‘Following a number of reports in relation to a video filmed by a member of the public at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and posted online, officers arrested a 46-year-old woman on suspicion of a public order offence.
‘The woman has been bailed to return to police on January 21, with conditions that she cannot enter any NHS premises or the grounds of any such premises, unless in the case of an emergency or to attend a pre-arranged NHS appointment.’
The hospital has said they are busy, despite the footage.
A spokesman said: ‘Our hospitals are and remain extremely busy and colleagues at both our hospitals have been working hard throughout the festive period to care for our patients
‘Contrary to what you may have seen through ‘secret filming’ on Facebook, our hospitals are and remain extremely busy.
‘We are currently caring for more than 200 patients with COVID-19, including many who require treatment in our critical care departments and a further 500+ non-COVID patients.
‘Filming patients who are waiting in A&E without their consent is both intrusive and upsetting as maintaining patient confidentiality is key to our hospitals being a safe space for you to receive the care you need.
‘We cannot stress highly enough how important it is to continue to follow hands-face-space guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable in our community in Gloucestershire
‘Our Trust and our colleagues throughout the NHS are dedicated to caring for you around the clock, every day of the year.
‘We know that the vast majority of our local community in Gloucestershire appreciates the extraordinary dedication and expertise of our NHS and we’re extremely grateful to you all for your continued support.’