Much as this 6 month prison sentence has shocked the smokers (and none smokers) nationwide, the biggest shock has been to Nick himself and his beloved Denise, to whom I spoke to at length last night.
Denise is a 'bag of nerves' as she ventures into 'prison world' for the first time today to visit Nick. She is worried about entering a prison. She is worried about being alone in strange place full of criminals until Nick is directed to her table. She is worried about Nick himself! His mental state of mind is her biggest worry-and why not.
We all know Nick Hogan as the big, brash northern lad that speaks his mind about the smoking ban and what it has done for the industry (despite Gillian Merron's assertions to the contrary-where do they get these puppets, sorry, muppets from?). But Nick is a worrier, and he has every right to be as he is in Forest Bank Prison in Manchester, the home of many hardened criminals, people who have no conscience concerning peoples property, possessions or safety of others. people who will hurt or maim to get what they think they should have; probably to get their next 'fix'!
Last night I asked Denise to try and be as calm as possible, given the circumstances, and to try and treat the visit as she would a sick relative in hospital. She has to be strong for Nick for they have much to talk about.
Since Nick was sentenced last friday much has happened in blogosphere, a powerful medium for shaping future policies or pointing out fundamental flaws in exesting policies to those who sit in power. by now many of them will have realised that there is uproar over the gaoling of Nick Hogan for 6 months but many may well sit back and congratulate the system they framed and uphold for this sentence for in their mind this most heinous of crimes must be punished under the full weight of the law possible. But what did Nick actually do?
The day this law came into power he protected his business interests by allowing customers the freedom to choose for themselves. He provided gum for those who wanted to attempt quitting and ashtrays for those who enjoyed the gentle art of fag and pint! fair play.
The authorities didn't quite see it that way at all. To them it was a guilt edged opportunity to throw this new law at a licensee from the highest point possible and set an example to the rest of the licensees who may contemplate transgressing this most ill thought out law. Result; court appearances, fines and an unbelievable amount in costs claimed by the prosecuting council-£7,236.00. Surely it was an open & shut case. Man allows smoking on his premises (although that is not strictly true as notices were posted stating it was against the law but customers had a choice!) so man is obviously guilty of flouting the new law, so how did it possibly cost Bolton Council £7,236 to present this case to the court? FOI request coming on here me thinks!
Back to blogosphere. Anna Racoon presented us with an excellent blog on the subject and has allowed "Old Holborn" to use and distribute as they both have a far wider audience than I. A fighting fund has been set up by Old Holborn, which to the best of my knowledge is fast approaching £5,000-nearly 50% of the sum Nick was imprisoned for non payment of in the first place.
But here raises an interesting point folks. Nick has been bankrupted by this SB law-2 pubs, both leases sold as pubs became useless as business ventures. His current pub in Chorley is not so good either as the 'bottom bar' is seldom opened due to the dearth of curtomers whereas pre-ban it would never have been shut! Nick has gone to court to fight for a reduction of the £500 per month he was supposed pay the fines of at but obviously could not afford. They did not want to listen. they already had other plans in mind. Example to be made-end of!
Having made several phone calls i have been availed of some cheering news.
6 months is classed as 180 days imprisonment and any time served from the time of sentence (friday included) counts as 'payment' toward the total amount imprisoned for. Therefore every day that Nick remains in forest Bank another £50-£55 comes off the total amount imprisoned for. The court authority will not give me the actual figures (data protection-how can a number/series of numbers be data protected?) but the actual amount outstanding was just under £10K.
I have also been informed by the prison that even though it is an imprisonment for unpaid fines, the remission system is still in effect therefore, worst way, 'with good behaviour' Nick will serve a maximum of 120 days instead of 180! This is cheering indeed.
Even better, I have been availed of this gem: upon completion of sentence all monetary penalties will be deemed expended; ie dead, as the prison sentence has been imposed in lieu of the financial penalties. However, Bolton Council may pursue the outstanding court costs through the civil courts, though this would a totally pointless exercise as Nick has already been bankrupted by the system that introduced the SB law which finally saw him imprisoned! It will however, be interesting to see how Bolton Council react upon release for they have put in (and been awarded) an exorbitant amount for an open & shut case as stated earlier.
So, apart from Nick having to sit in a category 'B' prison with many unsavoury types (he may yet be moved to an 'Open' prison as he is classed as 'non violent') the financial front is looking rosier for him and Denise. I am not saying that sitting in a 7' x 9' prison cell is a 'nice' option at all, it isn't, but at least the financial side is perking up considerably and I would draw great comfort from that fact.
I have no doubt that other bloggers will pick this up and castigate me for my thoughts but at the end of the day Nick is in prison for suffering ridiculously high fines imposed, almost ludicrously expensive council based prosecution fees-yet neither may not get another penny out of Mr & Mrs Hogan. The system has shot itself up the arse!
Further good news from blogosphere is that nearly £5K has been raised for Nick's cause but this needs to keep coming, so that we can get Nick back on the streets-more news will be forthcoming as soon as I have knowledge.
Keep those letters going to the prison, they will be Nick's sanity.