Pub landlord defies smoking ban

Businesses which flout the smoking ban will face fines and prosecution from now on, Norfolk councils warned last night as the first pub landlords declared they would defy the new law.

Businesses which flout the smoking ban will face fines and prosecution from now on, Norfolk councils warned last night as the first pub landlords declared they would defy the new law.

Since the ban came into force on July 1, no arrests have been made and no fines issued across the seven districts of Norfolk as councils pursued a policy of “educating” businesses about the law rather than punishing them for breaches of it.

But now, the councils have warned that they will start to take legal action against persistent offenders.

The warning comes as a fuming pub landlord in Norfolk urged all licensees who disagree with the “blatant infringement of civil liberties” to push for the smoking ban to be repealed.

Martin Turver, landlord of the Dog and Partridge at East Wretham, near Thetford, threatened to de-license the pub and give punters a free pint if they buy a cup of tea - dodging the ban by turning the pub into a private property.

His opposition came as Hugh Howitt, also known as Hamish, became the first landlord in England to be prosecuted for flouting the new legislation.

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Howitt appeared before magistrates in Blackpool yesterday, denying the charges.

“The smoking ban is a blatant infringement of people's civil liberties,” Mr Turver said. “While the House of Commons is exempt from the law, publicans who struggle to earn their living are covered by the ban. It would be sheer folly and downright unfair to ask our customers, who are mainly smokers, to stub out their cigarettes or smoke outside.”

The defiant landlord battled to re-open the pub near Thetford more than 12 months ago after it had been closed for five years.

However, just as trade is building up, he is faced with a dilemma - to enforce the law but lose the bulk of his customers, mainly heavy smokers, or fight the ban.

“The majority of our customers are smokers,” he said.

“We have lots of farmers coming in and enjoying a pint and a fag. With the recent bad weather we've had, the last thing they want is someone to tell them off for smoking after a long day.

“If the council refuses to see our side of the story, I'm going to de-license the pub, which means it will be a private property where people are allowed to smoke,” he said.

“I can still offer tea and a free pint and at the same time give people the chance to enjoy themselves, lighting up.”

Last night, a spokesman for Breckland Council said: “We [local authorities across Norfolk] have agreed to take a consistent approach and start proceedings against persistent offenders, if there is enough evidence to do so. We consider each case on its merits but have agreed a coherent approach to enforcement with the other six local authorities in Norfolk.”

Despite being hand delivered a letter from the authority last week, notifying him of potential legal procedures and a possible £2,500 fine, Mr Turver, 50, is determined to stand his ground.

The Breckland spokesman added: “We have only had complaints about a few premises allowing smoking and these have been investigated. We are aware of one public house where the owners seem to be determined to flout the law.

“This is disappointing as we have offered advice, guidance leaflets, smoke-free surgeries and visited the premises.”

Meanwhile, organisers of the Latitude Festival responded to an inquiry from the EDP regarding alleged breaches of the smoking ban during the festival last month.

In a statement, the organiser said: “The notices [no-smoking signs] were put up and repeatedly taken down by smokers. Next year, we need to make more permanent signs.”

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