Monday, 5 November 2007

Pub landlord fined for flouting smoking ban

LONDON (AFP) - A pub landlord on Monday became the first in England to be convicted of breaching new laws banning smoking in enclosed public places.

But Hamish Howett, 55, a Scot and a non-smoker, vowed to let punters carry on lighting up in the Happy Scots Bar in Blackpool.

District judge Peter Ward said he did not want to make him a martyr, but branded Howett's actions "silly" as he sentenced him at Blackpool Magistrates' Court.

Howett was fined 500 pounds and ordered to pay 2,000 pounds prosecution costs after he admitted breaching the legislation, which came into force on July 1.

The publican has set up a political party called Fight Against Government Suppression, and the court was told the campaign has left him on the verge of bankruptcy.

Owners and managers of pubs, clubs and cafes are legally bound to enforce the smoking ban and face fines of up to 2,500 pounds if they fail to do so.

Referring to the new legislation, Ward said: "That is the law and it has to be complied with.

"I suggest your campaign has been silly, pointless and misguided. It has achieved nothing. All it seems to have done is cause a great deal of problems for yourself.

Howett later said he would try to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

"We're all going back to the Happy Scots Bar now for a smoke," he said.

"The judge was very fair but he was preaching apathy with his words. Someone has got to stop this law, otherwise it will go through like a juggernaut.

"I was advised today I did not have a skeletal argument to plead not guilty on human rights grounds but I won't give up. I'll keep fighting to take this all the way."

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