Remember todays date folks, Friday 16th October, 2009, for today is the day when any form of "justice" (we endeavour to uphold in this country) disappeared over the hillside with it's backside on fire! Today is the day when, unquestionably, the court system has been shown to be in the pockets of the anti smoking brigade and smokers branded the new 'cash cows' of our society-whether the accused is actually smoking or not is totally irrelevant!
Today is also the day that millions of ordinary people have been laid wide open to prosecution (abuse) by the new secret police force of this country-Environmental Health Officers! It appears that 'they' (EHO's) can state anything they like to gain a prosecution and they don't have to have the ability to back it up!
A lorry driver appeared in court some months ago charged with smoking whilst in charge of his vehicle. He was actually parked up having his dinner break. A local EHO parked some 22ft behind him and "observed the accused smoking in his cab".
We digress here: the lorry is 66ft long and of the petro-chemical carrier type. This means the EHO was sitting 88ft behind the relaxing driver.
The EHO stated that she clearly saw the driver 'flick ash' out of the cab and onto the ground - at 88ft? You are clearly having a laugh. She took photographs of the rear of the lorry before driving ahead of the parked vehicle, turning back and taking a photograph of the front cab of the lorry. Neither photograph shows the driver actually smoking, in fact the frontal photograph does not even show the driver sitting in his cab!
Upon issuing a fixed penalty notice to the drivers employers, the driver lost his job - no surprise there then. However, the driver, being a sensible sort of chap dismissed the 'FPN' as superfluous for the simple reason that he was 'vapourising' not smoking; ie, taking comfort from an e-cig (an electronic cigarette) as he knew the law and also had the small matter of 5,000 gallons of highly flammable liquid sploshing about behind the cab. (Yes, you may start wondering where the supposed 'flicked ash' came from.
The 'FBN' duly ignored caused the inevitable summons to be issued to appear before the magistrates court. Our friend the driver relished the opportunity to clear his previously unblemished name in the court, for as he stated "I have done nothing wrong". Sadly, our friend did one thing terribly wrong-he tried to represent himself!
He produced evidence of purchase (e-cigs)b to verify the fact that he had actually bought them prior to this supposed offence (this was dismissed as faked evidence!) and he defended himself as stoutly as his limited legal knowledge allowed.
The EHO produced the same photo's and stated she could clearly see the driver smoking (from 88ft [?]) and remained steadfast about watching 'cigarette ash' fall to the floor. Upon request, there were no photographs produced of the incriminating 'ash', nor the 'cigarette butt' supposedly ejected from the cab. Apparently the EHO had not seen fit to take such pictures which of course would have been incontravertible proof of the accusation levelled against the driver.
The upshot was that the innocent driver was found guilty and fined just over £700 for his apparent sins. The EHO was deemed a 'credible witness', even though she could provide no proof of the allegation!
The driver decided to take legal advice and an appeal was rapidly lodged.
Today, Friday 16th October, 2009 was the day our friend the driver would surely clear his name and this most dubious conviction be quashed.
Appearing in the Crown Court presided over by a proper Judge - you know the type, one of those learned people well versed in law - our driver had representation of the highest calibre provided by the top law firm in that area.....let the battle for justice begin.
Let me state here and now that the press were not informed of this appeal as a media frenzy would, it was suspected, severely taint the drivers chances - after all, we are dealing with a high profile criminal activity here (smoking) not some trivial £20m bank fraud or £20m drugs ring!
The EHO was the first to come under fire as the Judge ridiculed her affirmation that she 'had seen a cigarette being smoked from 88ft away-even espying the ash falling from the end of supposed cigarette'. He declared that such was an optical impossibilty. Asked about the photographs she stated that they proved the driver was indeed the driver of that lorry, on that day and at that time. What!
The driver had never disputed that from the very inset of this fiasco. Her testimony was labelled as 'inaccurate & incorrect'.
The local council were next to come under the Judges scrutiny as he basically told them that the prosecution should never have been.
Upon questioning, the driver admitted that he had smoked for 35 years and that he had smoked in the cab prior to July 1st, 2007 (though not when carrying high ectane substances) and had purchased the e-cigs as a substitute for his beloved cigarettes. He agreed that they were no substitute for the real thing but as a stop-gap after his lunch he was prepared to soldier on with them. The driver also asked why the EHO did not approach him to ascertain whether he was smoking or vapourising.....in evidence, the silly woman declared she was "frightened for her safety". Do we now have an unwritten law that all smokers are a violent menace to society? If confronting a smoker are we expected to end up on hospital battered and bruised. Unbelievably her reasoning for keeping her distance (88ft) was accepted.
The Judge retired to deliberate - for all of 45 seconds - returning to pronounce (mumble actually) the "appeal dismissed". No grounds, no mindblowing legal reasons, just appeal dismissed before he rapidly left the courtroom.
Our driver and his barrister sat stunned for several minutes before the second bombshell was confirmed - another £500 in costs to the already jobless driver. An e-cig had now cost the poor fellow £1,200, yet there should never have been a prosecution in the first place! He now has a criminal record for using a perfectly legal device and little prospects of continuing his career as a lorry/tanker driver thanks to the complete unprofessionalism of a totally incompetent EHO - who, in my humble opinion, should now be summarily tried & shot!
The driver was of a mind to take this ridiculous prosecution all the way to the European Courts but having suffered 'justice' today in the Crown Court has revised his opinion of such:- Quote: "What is the point of causing myself any further financial damage? There is no justice in this country anymore-not for smokers anyway. They have imposed this stupid, nation dividing law and have turned it into a 'cash-cow', Jesus bloody Christ I wasn't even smoking a f.....g cigarette, they were at home on the shelf!. It's obvious to me that EHO's don't need any training at all, their word is gospel, they can lie, be proven factually incorrect yet still be believed".
He further lamented that "our court system, once famed for being the fairest and most diligent in the world was nothing but a circus act under the direction of a government hellbent on extracting monies from its people under any guise".
Sadly, I could not agree more with his words for today, Friday 26th October, 2009 is the day that British "Justice" disappeared over the hillseide with it's backside on fire!