Niet minder dan £3.000 boete en £800 aan gerechtskosten legde een Engelse rechter op aan een pubeigenaar waarover een buurman had geklaagd over de geluidsoverlast die rokers voor de deur van de pub hem blijkbaar hadden bezorgd. De door de Engelse wetgeving naar buiten verdreven rokers hadden meegezongen met muziek die ergens anders vandaan kwam dan uit hun (eigen?) kroeg.
De hoogte van de boete kan tot faillisement van de pub leiden, zegt de eigenaresse.
De pubeigenaar gaat in beroep maar wij adviseren haar om de rekening door te sturen naar de werkelijke schuldige voor die overlast: de Engelse minister van Volksgezondheid.
Dawn O’Brien, licensee of the Fox, in St Leonards, Hastings in East Sussex told The Publican she was “dumbfounded” by the size of the penalty and feared it could bankrupt her. She is preparing to appeal the decision.
The case offers further evidence of the lack of leniency councils and courts are prepared to show as pubs struggle to cope with the smoking ban. And a trade leader has warned that similar cases could be in the pipeline as the effects of the ban continue to hammer home.
O’Brien, who appeared before magistrates in Hastings on Tuesday (January 8), pleaded guilty to breaching a noise abatement notice last July.
She was first issued with the notice in September 2006, but did not appeal it because she did not regard her pub as “noisy”.
But during the first month of the smoking ban she was hit with a summons after council officers decided she had breached the notice.
The complaint was from only one neighbour who, O’Brien claims, lives just 10 feet away from the pub on a narrow street.
“We are landlocked so out customers are forced to go out the front to smoke,” she said. “The noise they heard wasn’t even music from my pub, it was from some other neighbour and a few of my customers were singing over the top.”
O’Brien originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, but changed her plea on the day of the case believing her fine would be a maximum of £500.
“I couldn’t prove it was not my music because the council didn’t come to my premises,” she said. “That’s why I changed my plea.”
Despite presenting a petition of support from her other neighbours, magistrates decided on a £3,000 fine, £800 costs and victim surcharge of £30.
She added: “I can’t believe the fine, I nearly fell off my chair. We had absolutely no problems for 10 months.”
Joe O’Riordan, secretary of the 1066 Licensed Victuallers Association, was equally stunned by the size of the fine. “It’s out of all proportion, I’m horrified by the whole thing,” he said. “I also fear there are other cases in the pipeline along similar lines.”