A man who pulled off plastic sheets covering clothes at a Tesco supermarket in protest at a controversial Welsh Government ban on the sale of so-called “non-essential” items during a Covid lockdown was ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work.

Another man - a friend- had filmed swearing Gwilym Owen, 28, an apprentice plasterer, of Holyhead Road, Gaerwen, Anglesey, and footage was placed on Facebook which went “viral.” Owen’s solicitor said he had received considerable support but also considerable criticism for his actions and he accepted that opinions differed.

Owen pleaded guilty to damaging plastic sheeting at Tesco, Bangor, on October 23, and disorderly behaviour.

Gilly Harradence, defending, told magistrates at Caernarfon that the regulations were amended a few days later after numerous protests from retailers and the public.

She said Owen hadn’t entered the store with the intention of causing trouble. “He just wanted to highlight the unfairness and illogicality of the regulations,” the solicitor declared. “He didn’t expect all the publicity and media interest it received. His intention was to peacefully protest.”

Miss Harradence said he then panicked when confronted and acted “out of character.” A character reference described him as normally “very pleasant.” There were no previous convictions.

The lawyer said Owen had’t worn a mask because he had asthma so was exempt. The cling film had been re-used.

Prosecutor Diane Williams said staff had to re-cover the items. When police went to Owen’s home he remarked “f—-ing fascists the lot of you.” She said he had visited Tesco with another man to cause disruption and it wasn’t up to shop staff to decide whether they should breach regulations.

The prosecution sought £150 compensation.

Magistrates’ chairman Alastair Langdon awarded £200 compensation to Tesco and ordered Owen to pay £180 costs. He told Owen :”You had no regard to the safety and welfare of staff or customers at the store. Your actions must have been frightening and worrying to a number of people in the immediate vicinity.”

He said Owen entered the shop to “purposefully and maliciously” disrupt the running of the business.

“Nobody can go into public buildings like that and create such a protest,” the magistrate declared. “Protests have to be peaceful.” Owen had used “very nasty and abusive language.”

Mr Langdon said Owen had remarked to an arresting officer that the Facebook film was “going very well.”

On Facebook he had posted : " I had enough last night. I don't care about the backlash that I may get from this. Last night I heard supermarkets have put covers over 'non-essential' things such as clothes. We're heading into winter now and who would have thought clothes for children weren't essential?

“I'm sure there are people out there who can barely afford heating in their houses and now they want to stop people buying clothes in supermarkets. I don't expect everyone to do what I've done here but I do expect everyone to know that denying the public clothing is nothing but immoral and inhuman.”

One MP had warned at the time that Amazon would be the biggest winner from a “barmy” Welsh Government policy.

But the Welsh Government had said :”The purpose of selling essential items only during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops and to be fair to retailers who have to close.”

Owen left court without commenting further.