Monday 1 March 2010

The bully state marches on

Days after Nick Hogan was sent to prison, the authorities are throwing their weight around again.

A business owner is challenging legislation which dictates that no-smoking signs must be displayed in shops.

Stuart Isbister, who owns garden gift shop The Worm That Turned in Derby Road, city centre, refused to pay a £200 fixed penalty notice after being warned to display a sign by Nottingham City Council.

The council has now taken him to court for not paying the fixed penalty notice.

Mr Isbister pleaded not guilty at Nottingham Magistrates' Court today, and faces a fine of £1,000 if he loses a trial, which is due to take place on April 27.

And, as we now know, if he refuses to pay that fine, he could be given six months in one of the most violent prisons in the UK. Pour encourager les autres, of course. 

To the authorities, it makes no difference that no one ever smokes in Mr Isbister's shop.

"I can't remember a time when people smoked in shops, so it's a like using a sledge hammer to crush a nut, and I thought it was about time someone stood up to it."

Indeed so. Unfortunately we know what happens to people who stand up to the bully state. 

The smoking ban is the only law which requires millions of signs to be prominently displayed on private property. Shops are not compelled to put signs up saying 'No assaults permitted' or 'No drug use permitted'. Mandatory 'No Smoking' signs should never have been part of deal. They are superfluous. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Their sole purpose is to hammer home the anti-smoking message at every turn. And, of course, there will always be jobsworths who use these petty regulations as a bully's charter.

Nottingham City Council says that the shop is the only building out of around 5,000 they have visited in the city since the law came into effect that has refused to comply.

How much have these 5,000 inspections cost the taxpayer, all in the name of prosecuting one man in a garden gift shop? An anonymous council jobsworth was quoted as saying:

"We have provided Mr Ibister with signs and have asked on numerous occasions for them to be displayed which he has refused to do, resulting in us serving a fine which he refused to pay. This has led to the court appearance.

"The Health Act 2006 requires that all smoke free premises display the appropriate sign at the entrance to the premises – we are simply upholding this national law."

Yes, the Nuremburg defence. Only following orders. It would, presumably, be too much to ask the council to use its own discretion and common sense, particularly since no complaints have been made and it is manifestly a victimless crime?

[The smoking ban] includes buildings such as churches, listed buildings and art galleries, and the council says there has been no challenge about the aesthetic impact of signs on premises.

Well, really, what would be the point? When religious leaders described mandatory signage in churches as "daft", "overkill" and "unnecessary", the Department of Health ignored them:

In response to this the Department of Health spokesman said: "I accept, without reservation, that there is a long tradition not to smoke in churches but, as I am sure people will appreciate, to have provided an exemption would have created a dangerous precedent."

Churches setting a dangerous precedent? What planet do these people live on?

Let's be clear. Both Hogan and Isbister have broken the law. The point is that both 'crimes'—"allowing people to smoke" and not publicising a well-known offence—should never have been made crimes in the first place.  

Old Holborn is raising money for Nick Hogan's release. If you would like to donate, click here (but ignore his comments about smoking on trains and in shops. It is indeed illegal both to smoke and to "allow" smoking in the UK).

Ed West has more on the Hogan case at The Telegraph:

Match the crime with the sentence:

1) A man who used his two-year-old daughter as a decoy so he and his pregnant girlfriend could steal from three Poppy Appeal tins and a Multiple Sclerosis charity box over a period of two weeks last year, hiding the cash in their daughter’s buggy.
The 25-year-old also pleaded guilty to carrying a lock knife, stealing a guitar, and the attempted theft of another collection tin. He has a string of previous theft convictions dating back five years.

2) A pub landlord convicted for non-payment of a fine for allowing a “mass smoke-in” in his pub on the day of the smoking ban. He no longer owns the pub, and is bankrupt.

a) Six months in jail

b) A suspended sentence and a six-month drug rehabilitation order


Paul said...

Good post Chris.

I doubt there would be much retail space left if one were compelled to post signs describing everything that was not allowed on the premises.

Anonymous said...

I have seen posters talking about the smoking ban being a litmus test by the evil Labour party towards pushinfg the bounds of seeing how far they can get on any issue of removing liberty from the state.
Their twisted idea of a post democratic world.
Bad news, scumbags .
We are all cottoning on to it.
Up yours .
Your doctrine died when the Berlin wall came down.
Up yours !

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Unsurprisingly, the Palace of Westminster has no such restrictions - as you can see from the two caught on video. Not censured, of course.

The witch from Essex said...

No-smoking signs have been put up at the entrances to Buckingham Palace used by members of the public when they receive honours, but there will none at entrances used by the queen, the royal family or senior aides.

Anonymous said...

My town has a local "train station", well a pair of platforms and a pair of bus shelters, that has "no smoking on these premises signs" at both unmanned and wide open entrances.
There are NO enclosed buildings on the site. It's all open to the sky.
So who the hell is going to worry about someone smoking?

How did we all cope when there were lots of station buildings with coal fires in them and lots coal fired steam engines passing within a few feet of these buildings spewing out toxins, steam, soot particles and god knows what else.
Not much beats the smell of a steam engine flying through a station.

Isn't it about time there was some sort of mass action to tel the state to piss off. How about ripping every sign from every building mailing in every town them to the town hall?

Anonymous said...

Good idea.
Just make sure there are no cameras ?

Ben said...

"It is indeed illegal both to smoke and to "allow" smoking in the UK"

Twisted logic. If the state has the authority to forbid smoking, anybody can still allow smoking, but it has no effect on the smoker, because the state authority overrides private authority. So I don't understand why "allowing" to smoke should be punishable.

Becky Johnson said...

The Santa Cruz, California smoking ban requires all businesses and public buildings to display no smoking signage. It is the only such ordinance that I am aware of that makes it a criminal act to not display the signage on their private property.

They also banned smoking in all city parks, all recreational trails, at City Hall, on the grounds at City Hall, and even on the sidewalks around City Hall.

Anonymous said...

About Santa Cruz, I have also read where it's not smoking that is banned outdoors at city parks but even the mere "possession" of tobacco is banned - and that by law, authorities can both confiscate "possessed" tobacco and issue a fine, somewhere in the $50 to $100 range, for "having on one's person" tobacco, in any shape or form, even non-smoking tobacco. And that is what I read in the newspaper when this was first introduced a while back.

As for San Francisco, further north up the coast, the same sh*t is being implemented there, including no smoking outdoors around bars and restaurants.

Wait until all these San Francisco smokers who care to ignore the draconian outdoor bans with their $500 fine warnings discover that beginning this year they will no longer be able to pop outside their local bar to smoke either.

They just need to keep ignoring it a little longer until it's banned indoors and out, including private homes like coming to some housing buildings in San Francisco this year and it will be no smoking with 25' of city limits - period.

Funny thing too - Forces which was early on against the smoking-bans and which nobody early on seemed to pay much attention to - if you read their founding information it states they were founded in San Francisco, CA, of all places, some 10 years back or so.

Santa Cruz was full of anti-smoking sh*t a decade ago and since then has turned into total sh*t. I wouldn't even waste my money driving into that communist enclave anymore, inhabited by the filthy rich and then an indentured class there to serve their interests, including not smoking in their smug, holier than thou red-communist faces.

Anonymous said...

I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
]2012 end of world
[/url] - some truth about 2012

Anonymous said...

California is bankrupt.
Morally and spiritually.
It's all done behind closed doors.
Reminds me of Easter Island.
Far too many giant heads ?