The following article first appeared in The Mercury Newspaper, Yorkshire. Reproduced with kind permission.
The Smoke Ban Martyr Imprisoned
We suppose it had to happen one day.
We knew one brave soul would stand his ground.
We knew this law would be tested to its full extent.
Yesterday, the inevitable happened.
Nick Hogan was yesterday sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for refusing to pay fines and costs amounting to £10,236 imposed by magistrates for 'allowing' smokers to smoke in his pub/s.
Why did he do this you may ask? Several reasons actually.
Firstly Nick Hogan believes this law is utterly wrong - he is right!
Secondly, Nick could not stand the thought of his two thriving businesses becoming boring, soulless, atmosphereless shells that invited the odd non smoking soul through the door to the stench of sweat & cleaning fluids.
Thirdly, by denying smokers the right to smoke in his pubs he is throwing away 85%-95% of his core business, thus could not survive. (Both now sold)
Nick also considered that the local councils were in a total win/win situation as no matter what allegations are thrown about, the courts deem EHO's to be credible witnesses-more credible than us mere mortals. However, in this case Nick was cleared of 5 charges levied against him.
The smokeban has long been seen as the new 'cash cow' for the financially flailing judicial system and Nick has basically stuck two fingers up at the system-for it is corrupt, of that I have no doubt.
The costs incurred (apparently) by the local council in bringing the original case to court amounted to £7,236. Now just what sort of hourly rate are they charging to accrue that sort of unbelievable figure? I know Nick was determined not to pay this absurd amount, therefore I knew what the systems retaliation would be - so did Nick.
With the way the prison system is being run at the moment Nick will more than likely be shipped off to an Open Prison for he is a non violent offender and as the prison system is 'chokka-block' with criminals (they're the people who commit real crimes, like theft, GBH, serious drug offences, money laundering, rape, murder & sex offences against children)) he will probably only have to stay with HMP Hotel for 12 weeks as early release beckons, to make way for some more of those previously mentioned. Criminals!
The amazing aspect here is that a man has taken a stand against a law imposed by the criminally insane, who earn vast amounts in London for dictating what the humble street person can and cannot do with his/her business. We are approaching 5,000 closures of businesses since July 1st, 2007 yet this spiteful, restrictive and totally destructive law (which still cannot be proven to have saved one single life) is still in place and is still penalising hard working, honest business people like Nick Hogan.
Interestingly enough Deborah Arnott (the ASHite) has got in on the act by proclaiming, " It was a myth that the anti-smoking legislation had forced pubs out of business.Many pubs have shifted their focus to serving food, so they have changed their nature." Note this statement comes on the back of Gillian Merron's equally ludicrous (almost word verbatim) statement to a health debate in Westminster on Thursday 25.02.10) - this is obviously the new tactic pre smokeban review!
So nearly 5,000 closures is a myth! 5,000 businesses that until July 1st, 2007 were merrily carrying on serving pints to happy customers, and yes, smokers! Wait a minute Nick Hogan was one of these businessmen carrying on his daily business until 'nanny' stepped in and said he couldn't do it anymore - the way he was doing it. Profitably.
As for 'many pubs shifting their focus to serving food' -well - what choice have they had? So many pubs are struggling for custom it is arguable which is cheaper now, eat out or eat at home? I remember one pub in Leicester advertising dinners for £2.00, just to try and get the customers back in. It's now closed for good so, Ms Arnott, diversification into food certainly didn't save that pub!
Back to this imprisonment, what, exactly, have the council achieved with all their diligence and due process? Sure, they got their conviction in the courts but it has now cost them £7,236 - was it worth it? Are the council tax payers of Chorley going to thank them for wasting their taxes? The courts initially decided to further the 'cash cow' by £3,000 in fines but have now imposed a custodial sentence on the non payer and criminalised him for his beliefs. So, a long drawn out process which has cost a now non recoverable £10,236 has resulted in one defiant licensee spending approximately 12 weeks 'dossing' at Her Majesty's pleasure - at approximately £272.00 per week - another £3,264 of taxpayers money down the smoking ban drain. So this whole episode has cost the 'system' approximately £13,500 - which Nick, in this present climate, could not hope to earn in 12 weeks behind a pub bar! Nick will be able to smoke 'behind bars' of this nature!
What this idiotic and misguided anti smoking lobby do not realise is that they have created the martyr of all martyrs. They may well clap each other exuberantly on the back and guffaw at Nick Hogan's plight but they have not broken the spirit of the man.
As stated, they have created the one thing they never wanted - Nick Hogan The Smoke Ban Martyr
Nick, on behalf of freedom2choose I applaud your courage in standing up for every single smoker and licensee in this country.
Now, where are the rest of you?
F2C Press Office