Nick Hogan was the first licensee to be jailed in relation to the new ‘smoke free’ law, implemented 1st July, 2007. But, that is not the full story folks!.
Nick ran two pubs in Bolton, Lancs and being a fair minded man decided that it was not up to some government how HE ran HIS businesses. On the arrival of the smoke ban Nick simply provided ashtrays and NRT gum for those who chose ‘chew over smoke‘.
Needless to say the local council took great umbrage over this affront to their newly formed anti “smoking police” unit-commonly known as EHO’s (Environmental Health Officers).
They summonsed Nick to appear before the local magistrates on various charges relating to the new smoke free laws and Nick was duly found guilty, fined £3,000 with the added rider of £7,236 in costs after finding him guilty of four charges under the Health Act 2006.
So, here we have a court making the most of an opportunity to fleece a hard working businessman. The new aged “cash-cow” had begun.The EU’s evil plans had been taken onboard by our very, once best in thge world, (in)justice system.
The two pubs faltered badly. Customers started drifting away as they couldn’t smoke whilst enjoying their pints which left Nick Hogan with a dilemma. Should he keep trying to attract new custom or should he sell and give in to this law?
Nick sold both pubs (the leases), at a considerable loss to himself, and looked elsewhere for a pub-for that is the trade he knows & loves.
Enter “The Swan With Two Necks” in Chorley. He spent what little was remaining of the ‘lease money’ refurbishing the new pub to fit the criteria of ‘smokefree gastro’ style so as to give himself the best opportunity of making a success of the place.
Again, to no avail as smokers refused to return as regular drinkers and soon the new pub was under threat of financial embarrassment.Nick had no option but to declare himself bankrupt.
The proceedings didn’t take long as, after all, it was the ‘system’ that had bankrupt him in the first place by bringing in the total smokeban. Had choice been available Nick Hogan, and doubtless thousands of others, would have carried on merrily as they had done for centuries! His wife, Denise, took over the running of the pub whilst Nick “signed-on” for Unemployment Benefits/Jobseekers Allowance (maximum £65.45 a week or £283.62 a month) .
While all this was going on, Bolton Council were trying to force Mr Hogan to pay £500 per month towards the £7,236 they had been awarded by the court.
It didn’t occur to them that, being on benefits he did not even have an income of £500 a month, rendering it impossible for him to pay these “instalments”. This fact did not seem to register with the Council, being either too thick or too disinterested to work it out.
So Nick was “hauled” back before the courts for “refusing” to pay the demanded instalments.
The eventful day arrived where Mr Hogan appeared before the Bolton Crown Court once more to address this fine/costs problem.
It was stated that Mr Hogan ‘refused’ to pay the fines/costs-this is untrue.
Nick’s reason for attending the court hearing was to hopefully sort out a more reasonable repayment strategy, given that he was in receipt of Unemployment Benefit!
The judge took a very dim view of these facts and, ignoring Nick’s pleas of poverty (and the repayment schedules demanded exceeded his total income) lost patience with the whole thing and jailed him for 6 months for non payment of monies owed.
This, of course, caused uproar which led to the Internet campaign (initiated up by this writer/organisation) to free Nick Hogan.
The points of this factual case are simple.
The system (this government) forced a perfectly happy, sound businessman from a position of financial strength to a position of penury because of the implementation of a law that has no scientific basis or integrity and allows no quarter in the matter of personal choice.
The judicial system then flexed its mighty muscles by imprisoning a man who could not (not would not) pay the masters what the masters thought they were entitled to (despite the fact that debtors prisons were abolished in 1869 )
According to English Law, each and every person owing monies to the state is entitled to a “means test”, whereby an income and expenditure balance is worked out.
Nick Hogan was quite happy and able to initially pay £5 per week to pay off the inflated fines/costs, which, in normal circumstances would have been acceptable and, although a low amount, would have allowed Nick to start to re-build his life, which probably would mean that the fine could be paid off quicker as his circumstances improved.
This case had already gained massive media publicity therefore the “system” could not be seen to be weak in its resolve. It did however reveal itself as weak in the extreme by exposing itself as the ignorant, inertia driven “monster” we have “allowed” it to become.
Demanding that a man on Job Seeker’s Allowance be forced, under penalty in imprisonment, to pay just under 200% of his TOTAL (not disposable) income is the height of stupidity and reveals the true extent of how far “divorced” they are from those who they are paid to serve.
The judge in this case could only really act on the information given to him by the local council and, having been informed that Nick refused to pay his fine and costs (and was not simply unable to), then he imposed the appropriate sentence as laid down in legislation. Given the “evidence” (from the council officials) that Nick was deliberately in default, he had little option (Nick was there to answer charges of refusing to pay not to set a new level of repayment) The Judge was not there to actually set the level of repayment (he was unable to simply “change” the reason for the hearing as this was not in his power at this hearing) – this should have been done when the fines / costs were first levied at Magistrates’ Court level.
There is a possible case that the council officials involved in this entire prosecution have systematically “lied” to the courts with regard to Nick’s assets and means (although him being bankrupt should have given them a “hint” that £500 a month was simply not going to be possible without him committing a breach of his bankruptcy order – by favouring one creditor to the entire exclusion of all others). Additionally, by demanding such repayment levels, knowing Nick’s income and resources, the council, even if Nick had paid 100% of his income, would have been INCREASING the current debts of a bankrupt – which is illegal, but then you have to understand that the EU want our law officianardo’s to do whatever it takes to amplify the seriousness of ‘bucking the new trend‘, indoor smoking bans!
This is what LACORS directs the authorities to do when dealing with smoking offences:-
• the number of occasions on which the council is able
to demonstrate that information and advice on the
smokefree requirements have been provided to the
person in control;
• the failure by the person in control to take action
after the receipt of such information and advice;
• public statements made by or on behalf of the person
• that they do not agree with or support the
• that they are actively campaigning against it; or
• that they do not intend to do anything more than
simply inform people that they should not smoke.
Officers of LACORS and the CIEH are continuing to
closely monitor prosecutions and may be able to
provide information on trends, levels of fines and
costs, etc but not of course advice to councils in
preparing their own cases. Of particular interest are
those cases brought against repeat offenders which
test the ability of the council to secure penalties
prescribed in the legislation which will act as a
deterrent against further offending as this
information may be used to inform responses to
further consultations by the Government.
There is a real possibility that the council officials may be guilty of contempt of court – and this is a matter that WILL be investigated and, if evidence is found – action will be taken. They are NOT above the law. THIS is what we have been formed to do.
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