Health Act 2006 sets out to prohibit smoking in certain premises, places and vehicles. A former landlord of a Bolton public house was fined for 4 offences of breaching his duty (under section 8) to prevent persons from smoking in the pub. He appealed to the Crown Court but lost the appeal. He has now been jailed for 6 months for non-payment of the fine of £3000 and costs which have taken the sum owed to almost £10,000. The high level of costs is due to the fact that the prosecution was brought by the local council. The Daily Mail (1st March) carried the story. The legislation is rather convoluted and is backed up by various regulations. Persons who smoke in smoke-free premises (places or vehicles) commit an offence (under section 7) but they are normally offered a fixed penalty notice.
It is beyond doubt that smoking is harmful to health and the legislation was generally welcomed by many people but criticised by many others. It seems that this man has taken a view that this law is not justified. He is paying a heavy price for his stance. History is replete with people who have taken the stance that they will not obey what they see as an "unjust" law. Is this an unjust law or is it a perfectly proper exercise of law-making powers? The Old Holborn blog takes the view that the punishment is outrageous and the excellent CharonQC blog agrees. Big Brother Watch sees the imprisonment as being out of proportion and they point out (accurately) that some offenders (even of violent offences) do not receive that level of punishment. Of course, imprisonment is there as the ultimate sanction for enforcement of fines.