Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Appeal for Nick Hogan

First of all, apologies to everyone subscribed to lots of other blogs discussing this who have already seen the appeal cross-posted a dozen times.

I decided I should add a blog entry on it myself as the donations to Nick's funds seem to be slowing down after the initial rush to six grand in its first two days. We only need to make it to 10 and he - in theory - walks free. If one more person donates as a result of seeing this blog, its worth writing it.

For those not already familiar with this story, a quick précis from Old Holborn:

Nick was actually jailed for non-payment of the fine originally imposed for a 'mass smoke-in' on the day the ban came into force in 2007 in his pub, the 'Swan and Barristers' in Bolton. He no longer has that pub. He was fined again when council inspectors walked into his present pub and discovered a group of customers smoking - Nick wasn't even on the premises.

There is more to it. What we are seeing here is effectively a debtors' jail. Nick did not pay the court costs. He couldn't. He was bankrupt. Instead of coming to an arrangement to pay the money, the state has opted to jail him, presumably as an example to anyone else who dares make a stand against the completely illiberal anti-smoking law. For this is the core of the issue - Nick refused to be a deputised agent of the state in order to harass its citizens into complying. And on his private property too. And policing an act that is - in and of itself - not illegal (smoking). He is being jailed for refusing to be an unpaid policeman for a law that is ignored in many parts (such as the EU and UK parliaments). The menace behind all of this might be too subtle to comprehend immediately. Leg-Iron explains it beautifully:

Regarding the shop-keeper who refused to put up 'no-smoking' signs:

"You will be prosecuted for not putting up signs to tell people to stop doing something nobody has ever done. As that shopkeeper has. Not for smoking. Not even for allowing others to smoke. For not putting up 'Thou Shalt Not' signs in a place where they were totally superfluous."

The end result of the government's Righteous crusade is:

"Smokers, drinkers, fat people, salty people, drivers, ethnic divisions, religious divisions, a fragmented society is easy to control simply by pitting one fragment against another. The Righteous don't care about any of those fragments."

And the point of helping to free Nick is:

"A very important point. That we have noticed the tyranny of the law and that we are angered by it. That we are not going to sit back and just take it any more."

The reason we've had trial by jury for hundreds of years (until this year), was amongst other things, to enable the people to acquit defendants who were being charged on the basis of laws that most people regarded as unjust. To prevent the state from abusing the law. Yet here it is multiplying not only ridiculous, but in many cases, victimless, crimes but also forcing the deputising of citizens in their enforcement:

Thanks to Rogerborg (@ Old Holborn's comments) - note the deputising clause in the Health Act 2006 itself:

"(2) Any person who without reasonable cause fails to give to an authorised officer of an enforcement authority, acting in the exercise of his functions under or by virtue of this Chapter, any facilities, assistance or information which the authorised officer reasonably requires of him for the performance of those functions commits an offence."

Now, to be clear here on my own position. I'm a non-smoker and always have been. In one way the smoking ban has actually benefited me. As regular readers will know I have worked in nightclubs for some time. And I've also played in them as often as I've worked. I dance a lot when I go out - and some nights at work its one punch up after another. Prior to the smoking ban, if I'd exerted myself for an extended period of time inside the club I'd often have a heavy cough for a few hours afterwards and bad throat. This wasn't, to be fair, just down to tobacco smoke - there are plenty other things to inhale deeply in nightclubs such as dry ice. Its a pleasure to no longer have to put up with that. I also like the fact that I, and the women I end up sleeping with, tend to smell much fresher (though not always, hah).

That's as far as it goes though. Because in spite of this, not insignificant, difference to my lifestyle, I can recognise an illiberal piece of shit when I see it. I said from the beginning that venues should have been given the choice, or tax incentives to have smoke free areas, keeping at least one room available for smokers. As it stands - as others have pointed out - a venue could not be set up staffed and patronised exclusively by smokers (and of course non-smokers who weren't complete wusses). And I said this as someone who stood to benefit with the ban coming into force. I recognise this authoritarian, righteous unholy monster, in whatever form it takes; and one of those forms has definitely been the smoking ban and associated villification of smokers.

How to help

Nick Hogan wasn't just standing up for smokers. He was standing up for all of us. If you want to help - and every contribution really does help - you can donate (and get the latest news) from Old Holborn's place. Look for the paypal section in the top right. Alternatively you can send a cheque:

"We have another safe avenue for donations for all those of you who would rather send a cheque. If so, your Cheques for the Nick Hogan fund can be made payable to Freedom to Choose (Scotland).
They will be retained in the Freedom to Choose (Scotland) account until further instructions are available. The address is Freedom to Choose (Scotland), c/o The Dalmeny Bar, 297 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 8SA.
For total transparency I will update the 'donations sent' on a daily basis as soon as the Treasurer informs me of such.
This now gives the Nick Hogan fund twice the opportunity to reach our target folks."

There is also an event planned to carry out a 'national day of mourning for British justice' on Saturday 13th March, outside the prison where Nick is currently being held. Facebook group here

Finally, if you wish to write to Nick to give him support, the address of the prison is:

Nick Hogan DN5431
HMP & YOI Forest Bank
Agecroft Road
M27 8FB

Other thoughts.

There has been so much blogged on this topic in the last few days, I wanted to share some of the gems I'd come across myself. Apologies for any attributions that are not clear - many of them were in the comments sections of various blogs:

Assegai mike: "we smokers are the lightning rod for all civil liberties abusers"

Dick Puddlecote: "The reason tobacco companies stay distant to such things as this is that their intervention is classed along with kiddie-fiddling by the righteous. Once they put their hand in their pocket, the whole thing would be reclassified as a stunt by murderers. And there are plenty holier-than-thou morons in the UK who would believe it."

Rogerborg again: "He went to court to try to re-negotiate a payment schedule, now that he's bankrupt. The beaks would have none of it - the State is always a super-creditor - and gaoled him for the inability to pay, an inability that's due to their actions. Dickensian doesn't even begin to describe it."

Old Holborn: "no one has consented to the State making Nick Hogan a convicted criminal for offering his customers a choice within his own property instead of reporting them to the Police, as all publicans are now required to do by law."

Mort: "ok let me get this right?
he got fined for not upholding the law/statute (as defined by numpties and lobbyists), he was not paid to provide the state with a service which they invoked, he was fined for not invoking the state clause and therefore he chose not to pay the unlawful fine/tax because in effect it is unlawful? they revoked his right to earn income in his chosen career/profession/trade or skill..?"

Dick Puddlecote again, citing Huxley:
"No offence is as heinous as unorthodoxy of behaviour. Murder kills only the individual – and after all, what is an individual? We can make a new one with the greatest ease – as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself."

and then, in contrast, citing H.L. Mencken:

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who loves his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."

Anonymous over at Leg-Iron's place:
"Almost all real law was created a long time ago, most of it is common law.
Much of our law is now ‘derivative’ law, which, like its financial equivalent, is not real. Much of it also contravenes our constitutional law. Second order offences such as failing to stop someone else doing something have no place in free society."

On the subject of the other brave citizen tackling these laws, detailed over at the Velvet Glove:
"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."

And let us, last of all, never forget these words spoken in Croydon:

"Dermot Lineham, the enforcement officers co-ordinator at Conservative-controlled Croydon Council wrote he was "emphatic" that his officers should not have to approach teenage yobs in an email he sent out last Wednesday.

Instead, officers should 'focus our activities on adults who are less likely to attack us and more likely to pay fixed penalty notices'."


Anonymous said...

That last is a telling point is it not?

Spartan said...

Nice post.

One thing that always gets me is how the general public react to a uniform regardless of who's in it ... whether it be Police, PCSO;s and so on. Sometimes the 'uniform' is only an ID from some Council or other.

Rarely do these uniforms actually give orders ... they utter requests but the general public hear it as an order and obey.

They say things such as "Would you mind ..... .... ....?" or Would you please ... .... ..." or " May l ask ... .... ...." or so on.

These are all questions and not orders. You find that if you answer with a refusal or negative their faces are a picture. Their brain seems to stop. Many a time there is actually no legal requirement to do what they ask ... it is just bluff.

Refusal to comply to their requests is something they are certainly not used to ... and in most cases are simply not equipped to deal with.

Keep it friendly and not aggressive, smile and stay calm, ask them about details of the law, if any, they are pretending to use etc etc.

lt really isn't as bad out there as people think it is. lt only seems so because people tend to obey the uniform no matter what.

Stand your ground ... you'll feel better for it!

Katabasis said...

@davidncl - isn't it just! It's one of those comments I have to go back to check regularly to remind myself they really did say that.

@spartan - thanks! You're right - and it has been a regular experience for myself and friends, especially with the ambiguous jobsworths (i.e. those awarded with PCSO type powers but aren't actually PCSOs).

(By the way, did you ever catch this - the trial "litter wardens", who, in a horribly orwellian twist - can put pictures of non-compliant people in the local paper and wait for others to rat them out?)

Spartan said...

Litter wardens with cameras? ... hah. No, l missed that but it will be the usual procedure, they'll pick on the ones they see as weak. l doubt very much that they'd ever pick on me even if l did drop litter (which l don't) in front of them.

Even though l look quite intimidating and over 6ft with a shaven head,it seems l'm invisible to them as are others of the same general appearance.Don't you find this? ... no eye contact etc?

Thanks to John Travolta and his new film it would seem l'm 'in vogue' though. ;-)

Spartan said...

Katabasis ... you may want to edit your post and put Nick's prisoner number up with his address ... it's DN5431

Some prisons are quite pedantic about this and hold letters back because there is no prisoner number.

Katabasis said...

Cheers Spartan. Duly edited.

And yes I generally get left alone including lack of eye contact, if not i) on the doors or ii) on some kind of protest.

Though my look is a bit different to yours. Short, stocky. More cat-burglar in winter and Spartacus in summer. :)