September 20 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, March 13, 2014
A fitness coach has vowed to continue fighting after becoming the first person convicted of a criminal offence for training clients in a Royal Park.
Alexi Ajavon, 43, plans to launch an appeal after he was found guilty of carrying on the “trade or business” of personal training without a licence on Primrose Hill.
The French-born former model, who defended himself, was fined £50 and ordered to pay costs of £50 at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
“I’m gutted, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
“I’m going to appeal and this time I’m going to have witnesses and everything because I know how to make my case now.
“The case against me was just presumption; there’s no concrete evidence.”
The trial has thrown a spotlight over controversial licensing rules introduced last January by Royal Parks, which manages Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park.
Mr Ajavon was the first person taken to court for breaching the regulations, which require trainers to pay a minimum annual fee of £350, or up to £1,500 if they train large groups.
The father-of-two, of Mount Pleasant Road, Queen’s Park, believes the policy is reasonable for large boot camp-type exercise classes but unfair on one-to-one trainers who earn less money and have little impact on the parks.
He intends to carry on using Primrose Hill without a licence.
“I’m just going to carry on my job, I’m not giving up,” he said.
“It’s ludicrous that we need a licence... I can’t believe they’re even willing to prosecute.
“Royal Parks are having budget cuts so they need to make money back. It’s just a way of making money for them, it’s not about protecting the park.”
The court heard that Mr Ajavon was issued a formal warning after police saw him exercising with a woman on Primrose Hill on September 10 last year. He was then charged after he was seen by officers working with another woman in the park on October 9.
The professional fitness coach told magistrates he was not trading on either occasion, because the women were friends and no money was paid for either session.
He told the court: “I didn’t pay for the licence originally because I thought the principal was wrong. I don’t believe we have to rent grass.
“But on these two occasions, fortunately for me they were friends.”
Prosecutor Dilichi Onuzo said: “I’m suggesting you were conducting a business, you knew you were wrong but you refused to pay because you’re against the principle.
“This whole defence that you were training a friend you have just made up because it was the only defence open to you.”
Although both police officers, Pc Nick Leach and Pc Clare Cossar, admitted simply assuming that Mr Ajavon was trading, because he had told them he was a personal trainer and made no mention of the women being his friends, the magistrates ruled against Mr Ajavon.
Magistrate Tim Ahern said: “We believe that you were carrying on a trade without a licence and therefore you are guilty of this offence.”
Following the verdict, a Royal Parks spokesman said: “We welcome anyone who wants to use the parks to get fit.
“But it’s against the law for anyone to run a business in the parks without permission.
“It costs around £32million each year to run the Royal Parks, 60 per cent of which is self-generated. We think it is reasonable that someone using the parks to run a commercial operation makes a contribution.
“All income is reinvested into maintaining and conserving the parks.”