Monday, 8 March 2010

Has Nick Hogan been released?

I used to be an underage drinker, fifteen years ago, tumbling around the mean streets of Bolton. I've lost count of the number of times I was found lovingly wrapped round a lamppost in a pool of my own vomit (it was either once or twice) or fingered a similarly drunk underager in the churchyard round the corner (twice, possibly three times)

The main school pubs for my lot were Ye Olde Man and Scythe and later The Malt and Hops. The Malt and Hops was a smaller ale bar attached to The Swan pub on the corner of Bradshawgate and Churchgate. I went in there three times, twice because Timbo said the girl who I fancied off of my school bus was in there (she was once) and once cos I was going to try to smoke.

Even to this day, the smell of cigarettes in pubs brings a smile to my face, it reminds me of being young. Some time in May 2007, I escaped from smoking ban Scotland to have a nervous breakdown, down a bottle of vodka, drove to London and went to a gig. The stench of Silk Cut was beautiful, at that moment I knew for sure my destiny lay in London.

Anyhoo, Last time I went to Bolton, The Swan was closed. It's former landlord is a chap called Nick Hogan. He's in a spot of bother at the moment, bankrupt and in prison for refusing to pay a fine. He was fined for allowing smoking on his premises.

Think about that for a moment. Not fined for smoking, but for allowing it. The smokers, they weren't fined, as they had been allowed to smoke, but allowing them to smoke in licensed premised was the illegal act, not the smoking itself. Punished for not joining the police.

The Bolton Evening News has a fine array of pieces about the Nick Hogan case
When Bolton Council brought the prosecution he pleaded not guilty to five counts of failing to prevent people from smoking in his pubs and four of obstructing council officers.

District Judge Timothy Devas (ah, the same Tim Devas from the Nottingham Police dog handler thing - I&A) found him guilty of four charges of allowing people to smoke.

He was cleared of one count because he was not on the premises at the time, and he was found not guilty of four obstruction charges.

If a fine is not paid, court enforcement officers follow it up, and if it remains outstanding the case will be brought back to court for magistrates to give an alternative sentence.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “The court’s decision marks the end of a lengthy process and proves that, ultimately, flouting the law can have severe repercussions.

Bolton Council's political make up is thus:-
Lab (minority) - 27
Conservation - 23
LibDem - 9
Other - 1

Old Holborn and Anna Raccoon summoned up the massed ranks of the pro-choice blogsphere, a fund was set up and donations invited. Even mighty Guido waded in.

On Friday the target of £9712 was reached, but now things have taken a murky turn. Internet messageboard Freedom2Choose waded in, claimed they'd got Nick Hogan released and demanded Old Holborn handed the money over to them immediately. Then mysteriously their announcement on it was taken down. And as far as I can discern Nick Hogan is still in prison.

The money was raised four days ago, tied up in a crock on the internet. All ready to be transferred to where ever it need to go to secure the landlord's release.

Keeping someone in prison isn't a cheap thing, it costs money, about £106 per day. Those four days that Nick Hogan hasn't been released during have cost us, the taxpayer, £427. I guess its possible that someone somewhere said that the financials could wait until after the weekend, cos there's no one in the office who knows how to switch on the 'puter at weekends, but that's just not good enough.

I donated £1.50, I demand to see justice and see the release of a bankrupt landlord.

Villains of the piece
  • District Judge Timothy Devas
  • Bolton Council

Actually, I think I went to The Swan a fourth time, after I'd moved to Glasgow, it must have been around Christmas 1999 or 1998, I was 19, on a whistlestop trip back to the mothership. I was doing the rounds of Bolton, trying to go to as many of the old haunts as I could. I stopped off in The Swan, didn't see anyone I knew and was about to leave I heard a voice call my name, I turned to find a well fit sixteen year old addressing me. "Don't you recognise me?"

It too a few moments, but I finally twigged that this was Georgie Brennan's younger sister who I'd last seen as a woefully underage lass on a climbing course in the lake district some years before. My, she'd blossomed, and now she was on the correct side of the too young/too old equation ((your age/2)+7=youngest age you can pull without it being gross)

So of course instead of taking advantage of the situation and adding her notch to my tree in the churchyard round the corner, I ran off to The Spinning Mule on Nelson Square to tell my brother. I can be such a fuckwit sometimes.

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